MARK Gillanders, of County Monaghan, has been chosen as a Farming for Nature Ambassador for 2022.
Mark is one of five Ambassadors chosen for the 2022 Farming for Nature Public Vote Awards. Now in its fifth year, Farming For Nature (FFN, www.farmingfornature.ie) was set up with the aim of identifying, celebrating and supporting farmers who are farming, or farmers who wish to farm, in ways that support and protect nature on their land.
This year’s ambassadors come from right across Ireland and include beef, dairy, forestry, horticulture and tillage farmers who manage a wide range of valuable habitats, including species-rich grasslands and heaths, wetlands, uplands, woodlands and more.
The public are invited to vote for their favourite farming story by visiting www.farmingfornature.ie
You can learn more about each Ambassador by viewing a specially commissioned short film which provides an insight into these farmers and their inspiring work.
Mark Gillanders runs a mixed organic farm in County Monaghan. About 75 acres of cereals are grown on the farm and the remainder of the land is permanent pasture and clover/multispecies pasture. Mark runs a suckler herd of about 20 cattle and the stock are very extensively managed.
Red clover silage produces winter feeding for the cattle, which are indoors for just a few weeks over the winter months. Organic oats are grown and supplied to Flahavans. Organic wheat is grown on the farm and is locally milled into strong Irish flour and sold in the Irish consumer market.
Mark has incorporated rotational combi crops into the farming system, mainly wheat and beans growing together, which are separated leaving the wheat for flour and the beans for animal protein, thus reducing the amount of imported protein.
There is about five acres of uncultivated wetland on the farm, which is left for biodiversity and wildlife. Thick hedgerows are managed for biodiversity and along with pockets of woodland they make up nature corridors running throughout the farm.
Since converting to organic in 2009, Mark has observed a significant increase biodiversity on the land: “The farm has improved tremendously in terms of biodiversity on the land, as well as climate and economic resilience.”
Mark achieved a Master of Science in Organic Farming from Scotland’s Rural College in 2019. He is proud to run a farm that produces high quality food for human consumption as well as providing for local wildlife and biodiversity.
Dr Brendan Dunford, of the Burren Pro-gramme, founder and committed volunteer with Farming for Nature, said: “At a time of so much divisive debate around food security, biodiversity loss and climate change, this year’s farming for nature ambassadors offer us the hope, inspiration and practical advice that we so desperately need to navigate the challenges – and embrace the opportunities – that lie ahead.
“These farmers deserve our respect, grat-itude and support; they embody all that’s great about rural Ireland and we are so proud of them.”
The five Ambassadors will be featured at the annual Burren Winterage Weekend (www.burrenwinterage.com) in October when the winner of the Public Vote Award will also be announced.
Ten additional Ambassadors have been announced and will be profiled over the coming months, bringing the FFN Ambassador network to a total of 81 wonderful farms located across the island.
The Farming for Nature Awards are sponsored by Bord Bia and supported by a wide range of farming and conservation interests, including the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the National Rural Network.
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