Padraig Corcoran who is shortlisted for the National Farming for Nature award

Local man among six shortlisted for National Farming for Nature award

By Connell McHugh

A local Roscommon farmer has been shortlisted for the 2018 National Farming for Nature award, an initiative which hopes to share and celebrate stories of farmers from across Ireland who are conscious of nature on their land and in their community.

Padraig Corcoran from Lecarrow is one of six finalists shortlisted for the award, with the public being asked to vote for their top farmer.

Padraig runs a sheep and cattle enterprise on his holding in Mount Plunkett near Lough Ree, along with his wife Bernadette and four children. He manages a 54-acre section of an old estate which he runs as a Nature Reserve, composed of a diverse range of tillage, grassland, woodland and wetland.

Since 2005, Padraig and his family have been dedicated to managing their farm for nature, protecting and enhancing its biodiversity. Work included restoring woodland, planting new hedgerows, digging ponds, installing bat and bird boxes, and restoring wetlands for breeding waders of conservation importance by clearing encroaching scrub.

"To us it's everything. It's a beautiful place to rear children. It's not difficult to farm, even though you might think it is, once you get your systems in place and you're conscious of what you do and the effects it can have on the wider part of farming," Padraig said in his five-minute promotional video.

"Farming to us is about being sensitive and compassionate to the environment you're working in."

He also questions the human impact on the environment while farming.

"How much damage can be done with a big track machine or digger in a couple of hours? It can take hundreds and hundreds of years for these beautiful habitats to develop and to come into what they are.

"Within hours or days, it can just be wiped off the map and all the schemes and money in the world won't matter because we won't be around to see it."

When asked about the other finalists for the award, Padraig told the Westmeath Independent that he had watched the other videos.

"What struck me was that we all have the same passion. The terrains we work on may be different but the interest in farming is the same.

"And we're not doing it for the limelight because we don't get anything out of this. We all have a common goal and every farmer can do their piece for the environment. You can look at a weed and say it's 'just weeds' but it's the birthplace of something and it's important to appreciate that."

The six farmers were nominated by over 150 environmental professionals and a five-minute video has been made about each in which they chat about their work and conservation efforts while farming.

The other five finalists come from Achill Island, Wicklow, Kildare, Cork and north Tipperary and represent systems which include mountain sheep, small upland farms and large tillage farms.

Project co-ordinator Brigid Barry explained how the winner will be chosen:

"We - our panel of ten judges and I - have managed to narrow down this year's nominees to a shortlist of six finalists, a really tough job as the standard was simply outstanding.

"The judges have assessed all six finalists in detail and rated each one according to a list of agreed criteria. This will account for 40% of the final vote but we want the public to decide on the other 60% - the majority of the vote - and they can do so by simply visiting and selecting their favourite entry."

The deadline for votes is midnight Thursday October 25, with the winner being announced at the Burren Winterage School on Saturday October 27 in Kinvara, Co. Galway.