Mayo Sheep Farmer Joins Farming for Nature Network

A County Mayo sheep farmer who considers himself a steward of the land has joined the Farming for Nature (FFN) Ambassador Network.

Now in its fourth year, FFN has been created to highlight the stories of farmers across Ireland who are managing their land sustainably, while providing an income for their families.

A total of 23 ambassadors were selected, including beef; sheep; forestry; dairy; horticulture; and soil farmers.

Participants manage a wide range of “valuable habitats” such as
species-rich meadows and heaths; swamps; woodlands; and hedges.

The FFN Awards are sponsored by Bord Bia and supported by a wide range of relevant stakeholders including the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine (DAFM), National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS ) and the National Rural Network.

agriculture in the west

FFN Ambassador Colm Gavin is an eighth generation farmer in the Bundorragha area where he raises up to 100 Mayo blackface ewes.

The sheep are on the mountain all year round, grazing the multi-species natural vegetation and tending the land.

Colm Gavin on his farm. Image source: FFN

Colm operates a very large farming operation and very few external inputs are needed on the farm.

“Active farming is the best thing I can do for nature on my farm. A lot of upland needs to be managed to get the most out of it,” he explained.

The Mayo Man is also part of the European Innovation Partnership (EIP) of the Pearl Mussel Project (PMP).

It rewards participating farmers for the ecological quality of their land, which in turn contributes to the quality of pure water needed by the freshwater pearl mussel.

As part of his work on the project, Colm removed the invasive rhododendron from the mountain.

Freshwater pearl mussel
Freshwater pearl mussel. Image source: Dr. Patrick Crushell

It uses silt traps to prevent excessive sand and silt runoff from the ground from entering the river and livestock bridges to protect water quality.

“Being part of the EIP Pearl Mussel project brings to light lands that we would not have considered very valuable in the past.

“These areas actually turned out to be the most important areas on the farm in terms of biodiversity.”

Colm considers himself a steward of the land and hopes to pass it on to the next generation in a better state than he found it.

“As a hill farmer, all you do is tend the land,” he said.

About Keneth T. Graves

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