Mayo farm wins the first National Farming for Nature Award

Ella McSweeney, winner Martin Calvey, MEP Mairead McGuinness and Origin Green's Michael Maloney
Ella McSweeney, winner Martin Calvey, MEP Mairead McGuinness and Origin Green's Michael Maloney

The Calvey Family from Keel, Co.Mayo are the inaugural winners of the National Farming for Nature Award 2018.

This award was announced at an event this weekend with MEP Mairead McGuinness in Kinvara, Galway as part of the 2018 Burren Winterage School. 

The winners, the Calvey Family have farmed on Achill Island for seven generations. They farm a herd of 150 Black-faced Mountain Sheep on their shareholding of an extensive (20,000 acre) commonage, as well as on an area of machair (a rare seaside habitat).

These ‘Mayo blackhead ewes’ have been kept on this farm for many generations and are perfectly adapted to grazing the mosaic of protected habitats – from mountain to seashore – where they play a key role in maintaining local biodiversity.

Martin is also a master butcher and he and his family have, since 1962, run the only abattoir on Achill island. The Calveys sell their trade-marked ‘Achill Mountain Lamb’ from their local shop as a high-quality food product, one which has won numerous awards and is the choice of many top-chefs through the west of Ireland, including Ashford Castle.

Martin is a champion of good environmental management – a member of the local ‘custodians of the commonage’ group who helps ensure the land is properly cared for, as well as a great advocate for the link between habitat management, local food production and the added ecosystem and financial value that can result. As his daughter Martina says ‘We respect nature, we work with it and it rewards us very well’.

One of the Award organisers, Brendan Dunford, said that this year’s finalists represent such a rich and varied cross section of all that’s great about Irish farming: hard working farmers who love their land and their livestock and who really care for their natural environment.

"We can all learn something from these inspiring people and we should all be really grateful for what they do. I’m delighted for the Calveys and how they have managed, as a family, to bring a taste of Achill to food lovers all across Ireland, testament to their entrepreneurship and hard work."

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