Hill farmer become Farming for Nature ambassador
Colm Gavin, an eight-generation farmer, has joined Farming for Nature’s growing ambassador network.
He runs a 90-100-strong Mayo Blackface enterprise on a mosaic of wet grasslands and peatland in the Bundorragha catchment in Co Mayo.
The sheep farm operates what he described as a “very extensive” hill farming operation, using “very few” external inputs.
Sheep are out on the mountain year-round, grazing the multi-species natural vegetation and maintaining the land.
For Colm, “actively farming is the best thing I can do for nature on my farm”.
“A lot of uplands need to be managed to get the most out of them,” he explained.
He said that “as a hill farmer, all you are doing is maintaining the land” and added that as a “caretaker of the land”, he has a desire to pass it onto the next generation in “good condition”.
Pearl Mussel Project EIP
Furthermore, he is involved in the Pearl Mussel Project EIP. It rewards participant farmers for the ecological quality of their land.
This, in turn, contributes to the pristine water quality the Freshwater Pearl Mussel require.
As part of his work, he continues to remove invasive rhododendron from the mountain. Furthermore, he has installed silt traps to capture excess sand/silt runoff from the land before it enters the river.
Also, he has put in livestock bridges at various points along the riverfront to protect the water quality further.
He said that being part of the Pearl Mussel Project EIP “puts value on land that we wouldn’t have considered highly valuable in the past”.
“These areas have actually turned out to be the most important areas on the farm in terms of biodiversity,” he noted.
Farming for Nature
Now in its fourth year, Farming For Nature aims to “inspire, share and celebrate” the stories of farmers across Ireland who manage their land in a way that sustains nature while providing a livelihood for their families.
Colm is part of this year’s 23 ambassadors that come from across Ireland. These include beef, sheep, forestry, dairy, horticulture, and tillage farmers who manage a “wide range of very valuable” habitats.
These include species-rich grasslands and heaths, wetlands, woodlands, and hedgerows.
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