Stephen Morrison, his wife, Heidi, and their four children live on the 300-acre family farm at Hartwell, outside Kill, Co. Kildare.
They are the third-generation of the family to farm there. Stephen is a full-time farmer with an 80-cow suckler herd, taking all progeny to finish. He is not organic but is transitioning away from inputs.
He also has a tillage and forestry enterprise in place. Whilst the farm is busy and productive, Stephen has ensured that he farms in a balanced way and that he has a low impact on the wildlife that live and breed on these lands.
He continues to add biodiversity each year. He has fenced off the watercourses on the farm and allowed riparian margins to develop along these areas. “The biggest eyeopener for me was when I fenced off the water courses what I noticed was how much nature just came back and took hold over the years.”
He has dug out a network of ponds in an area of fen to provide a habitat of any aquatic species that may colonise this special area. He planted 18-acres of native woodlands, also has a 2-acre plot that is in wildbird cover for the past three years.
Additionally, a wildbird area has been planted with bushes and trees specifically chosen for their potential to provide nuts and seeds for birds located alongside the Hartwell Stream that flows through the farm.
The wooded glen planted by Stephen himself 20 years ago is now a haven for wildlife just as the dipper nesting box installed by his father 40 years ago under the stream bridge is still well used each year.
The most recent addition has been a forest garden planted last winter – the acre plot is full of bushes and trees but each one of the 150 plants will produce fruit, nuts or seeds for eating by the family (while providing protection and food for some feathered friends as well!). “It is about giving nature a chance, and sometimes it is more about what you don’t do than what you do.”
Farming for Nature
Now in its third year, Farming For Nature was set up with an aim 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 family.
Nominations are sought annually from a broad panel of environmental experts and through a rigorous system of interviews, farm visits and assessments by a panel of judges, 16 of these farmers were selected as ambassadors in 2020.
Of these, 8 ambassadors have been chosen to represent a cross-section of the farming community during September and October.
They will be featured at the Burren Winterage Weekend at the end of October when the winner of the public vote will also be announced.
The Farming for Nature Awards are sponsored by Bord Bia and supported by a wide range of farming and conservation interests including the Dept of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the National Rural Network.
The deadline for 2020 voting is midnight Friday, October 23rd, 2020 – To vote or to obtain any further information, click here.