Noel Kiernan inherited a farm in north Longford in 1997 but sold this because he wanted to “purchase something with more potential for nature”.
The naturalist moved to south Longford, where he now farms 250-acres of forestry, marsh, bogland, pasture and grass meadows.
The enterprise is home to Roscommon sheep, Bo Riabhach cattle and Connemara ponies.
He is passionate about conservation in all forms – from native flora and fauna to native Irish livestock breeds such as the aforementioned.
Animals are a crucial element of Noel’s farming system as they graze the pasture and produce manure that fertilises the soil.
He explained: “Traditional breeds suit the management here because they are easier to feed. If I had commercial cattle, I would need to reseed and fertilise.”
“Recently, I have gone for Bo Riabhach cattle. We are trying to build up a genetic resource whether they become a breed or an actual type of cattle.”
“They are a mixture of Shorthorn in any case and are suitable for organic systems, like this one.”
He explained that grazing is “very important” for certain rare species, such as curlew, corncrake, lapwing, skylark and other ground-nesting birds, as well as flora like orchids.
“All those species have followed us as farmers through the ages, and they have benefited from our farming activity.”
“Now, the lack of that type of traditional farming activity means that many of those species will be in trouble because they will not have suitable habitats.”
“When topping pasture, we have to consider pollinators especially. I will not be topping this until the thistle goes into seed and all the flower heads are complete.”
“It is not a case of not topping; it is a case of timing.”
Noel is a forester by trade, and he is passionate about combining forestry and farming, as he believes these practices can be mutually beneficial when managed sustainably.
The farm comprises 100-acres, mainly native broadleaf forestry on the land. This maintains native species of flora and fauna and encourages as much wildlife to the farm as possible.
Noel runs a continuous forest cover system, meaning somewhere a tree is cut, another is planted.
The farm, also referred to as “Noel’s Ark”, holds an array of habitats and wildlife. This includes but is not limited to amphibians, lizards, pine martens, kingfishers, woodcocks, blackcaps, skylarks, marsh fritillary butterflies and various bee species.
For years, he has dedicated his time and his land to farming in ways that protect and enhance biodiversity.
“We need to continue the work so that other farmers can learn from it. This will be useful as we progress the whole notion of biodiversity protection, to stop the extinction of species.”
Farming for Nature
Now in its fourth year, FFN aims to “source, 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”.
The 7 ambassadors will feature at the annual Burren Winterage Weekend in October. Organisers will announce the winner of the public vote at this event.
To share your story, email – [email protected]