Mixed organic farming is at the heart of Mark Gillanders’ 140ac operation in County Monaghan.
He grows in the region of 75-acres of cereals on-farm and places the remainder of his land under permanent pasture and clover/multispecies pasture.
In addition, he runs a suckler herd of about 20 continental cattle, which he manages “very extensively”.
“I am using animals as an engine to drive cereals“, explained Mark, who has been a certified organic farmer since 2009.
Red clover silage produces winter feeding for the cattle, which are indoors for a few weeks over the winter months.
He also grows organic oats and supplies these to Flahavans and also grows organic wheat which 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.
Furthermore, he has 5-acres of uncultivated wetland on the farm, which he leaves for biodiversity and wildlife.
He manages thick hedgerows 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 what he has described as “a significant increase” in biodiversity on the land.
“The farm has improved tremendously in terms of biodiversity on the land, as well as climate and economic resilience.”
Mark, who achieved a Master of Science in Organic Farming from Scotland’s Rural College in 2019, added: “I am proud to run a farm that produces high-quality food for human consumption as well as providing for local wildlife and biodiversity.”
Farming for Nature
Gillanders is one of five Farming for Nature Ambassadors chosen for the 2022 Farming for Nature Public Vote Awards.
Now in its fifth year, Farming For Nature FFN strives to identify, celebrate and support 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.
They manage a wide range of valuable habitats, including species-rich grasslands and heaths, wetlands, uplands, woodlands and more.
The public is invited to vote for their favourite farming story by visiting www.farmingfornature.ie.
The five ambassadors will be featured at the annual Burren Winterage Weekend in October, when organisers will announce the winner of the public vote award.