A long-standing Wicklow Uplands Council board member, Pat Dunne, has been shortlisted for the ‘Farming for Nature Awards’, which are designed “to unearth and to share the stories of farmers across Ireland who are making a positive difference to nature on their farms and in their communities”.
Pat along with five other members of Ireland’s farming community feature on the final shortlist. The finalist will be decided by a combination of votes received from a specially convened judging panel (40%) and members of the public (60%).
The finalist will be announced at an awards ceremony on the 27th of October as part of the Burren Winterage School, in Kinvara, Co. Galway.
Should you like to read more on the awards and possibly to also vote for Pat, please follow this link:
Pat is a 6th generation hill sheep farmer in Glenmalure, County Wicklow. Pat takes his role as the current “keeper” of the family’s long tradition of work on the uplands seriously. Over the last 40 years, he has seen the slow but progressive decline in hill sheep farming on the mountains. The quality of the mountains for grazing his sheep has declined and so has the associated biodiversity.
Pat, as a member of the IFA Hill Committee and later as Chairperson, had first-hand experience of the challenges upland farmers were facing. He also has an insight into the solutions being proposed by national and European policymakers. Progress in finding solutions is slow. This reflected the very often different perspectives (farming and environment) of the stakeholders. However, Pat was generous with his time and made himself available to everybody in the pursuit of solutions. He has an integrity, recognised and acknowledged by all the stakeholders, in often tough and challenging times.
These experiences gave Pat greater insights into the challenges facing upland farmers. He, however, had a simple positive vision. He wanted to hand-over the Wicklow uplands to the next generation of upland farmers, including his own sons, so that the rural community would survive. He cared for people.
Pat started the process of developing a strategy to realise this vision. He would never describe it that way himself. He informed himself by listening and learning as a member of the Wicklow Upland Council and was one of the instigators of the vegetation sub-committee. This was established to provide a better understanding of the Wicklow upland habitats and biodiversity – what is there? what condition is it in? what can be done to address the problem?
He looked further afield for solutions. He was inspired by the approach and work of the BurrenLife Project and brought a group of upland farmers to Clare to create awareness among them of potential solutions to the challenges they faced. Pat built relationships with the other stakeholders in the Wicklow uplands. These included Teagasc, National Parks and Wildlife Services, Wicklow Deer Management Partnership and recreational users. He was one of the first Wicklow farmers to establish an “Agreed Access Route” on his lands. Pat was persistent in his quest to realise his vision.
Pat recognised the opportunity provided by the EIP initiative under DAFM’s Rural Development Programme 2014 -2020. He assembled an Operational Group that assisted him to apply for funding successfully. The SUAS project (Sustainable Upland-Agri-environmental Scheme) started in March this year. At the project launch, he reminded the audience that the importance of the project lay in the fact that it would provide evidence to support policymakers and upland farmers to develop new upland schemes, keeping sheep farmers on the mountain producing meat and delivering public goods and it was not a quick-fix solution.
Pat’s achievements reflect his determination to provide a sustainable future for the uplands. This you might miss under his gentle, empathetic and often humorous temperament.
Wicklow Uplands Council congratulate Pat on all of his achievements and are delighted that these awards offer some recognition of the commitment and dedication that he has given to both the hillfarming and upland communities of Wicklow and beyond.
We would also like to wish him the very best of luck with the final stages of the awards.