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Clare’s Joe Melody has been named as the 2020 National Rural Network Biodiversity Farmer of the Year at this year’s FBD Young Farmer of the Year Awards.

From Bunratty, Newmarket-on-Fergus, Joe was selected in a category which places emphasis on farming sustainably by encouraging biodiversity and protecting the environment. Last month, he began writing a weekly farming column with The Clare Echo.

Alongside his father JJ, they farm 360 acres in partnership. Around 260 acres of the farm is used for the purebred suckler cows, their calves, and rearing the dairy replacement heifers. The remaining 100 acres are used for the dairy enterprise. A grassland management plan ensures the cows spend the maximum amount of days at grass throughout the grazing season. A targeted nutrient management plan is in place, and measuring and recording grass growths are actions central to ensuring the milking platform is farmed efficiently and in a sustainable manner.

Joe is an active participant in the Green Low-carbon Agri-environment Scheme (GLAS), where habitats such as Low Input Permanent Pasture (LIPP) and Traditional Hay Meadows (THM) are preserved. Adjudicators noted his passion for biodiversity and the importance of maintaining these habitats for birds and wildlife.

Former Macra and IFA President, Joe Healy chaired the adjudication panel which also included John Donoghue, IFAC; John McCullen, FBD; Catriona Morrissey, The Irish Farmers Journal; and Anne-Marie Butler, President of the ASA.

The farm borders the Shannon estuary with over 3km of riverbank. The riverbank is immersed in reed bed that intersperses with salt marsh, all of which need to be grazed and managed to allow the habitat and its ecosystem to thrive.

After receiving the award, Joe stated that he wished to become an ambassador for the varying enterprises appearing “on every high road and by road in the country”. He outlined, “I wanted to showcase what we have done on the farm in the last couple of years and be able to be a spokesperson for what we have done and a spokesperson for agriculture”.

“I am delighted to receive this award and to be recognised for supporting biodiversity and nature on my farm. I try to farm in conjunction with nature to protect the habitats on my farm. I want to leave this land in the best condition I can so future generations can enjoy the nature and biodiversity it supports. While farming the land, I take pride in embracing my role as a custodian of the land and protecting the environment,” Joe stated.

He added, “I believe my winning of this award will serve to show what is possible within the farm gate, the only area where we really have much control over our business’s outcome. This win is evidence that if you care for the environment, that environment will care for you and lead to a successful farm. Success in this area is not about adopting new fads; it’s about building on the knowledge of generations of great farmers. I couldn’t be where I am today without the support of my parents who have always encouraged me”.

Philip Farrelly of the National Rural Network highlighted that the passion, commitment and enthusiasm Joe had for sustainable farming was key to him receiving the award. “He is farming in a manner which respects nature, ensuring the land is properly cared for and that the habitats within it are protected and maintained”.

Chairperson of Clare Macra na Feirme, Cillian Griffey paid tribute to Melody on the accolade. “It is heartening to see consistent success in this competition by Clare Macra members for two years in a row and it shows how progressive Clare farmers are. Biodiversity is at the heart of farming now and will be into the future. Farmer’s actions play a key role in maintaining and managing existing natural habitats while also being involved in creating new habitats on farms.”

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