Long hours, bad weather, endless paperwork, volatile prices – welcome to the reality of farming in Ireland

We regularly hear and see romantic descriptions of the ‘The Idyllic Irish Family Farm’.

We regularly hear and see romantic descriptions of the ‘The Idyllic Irish Family Farm’.

Visions of small holdings with blue skies, green grass, whitewashed walls and red round roofed hay sheds immediately spring to mind.

These holdings are caricatured with smily, happy farmers, both parents working on the farm and their children happily helping out with farm chores. A blissful dream of the idyllic rural lifestyle is created.

Is this the reality on Irish farms or is there a disconnect between this dream and what actually happens at ground level?

In today’s world of instant communication and gratification, we have grown to accept fake news.

Yes, we criticise Donald Trump and Boris Johnson for telling us what we want to hear, yet we continue to listen even thought we know it to be false. In Trump’s case he is odds on to win a second term, so not only do people listen but they plan to vote him back in for more of the same.

Of course the reality on the average Irish farm is completely different to the dream presented in the billboards and brochures.

Firstly, one or both spouses are working off-farm to generate enough income to give their children a standard of living equivalent to average child in their class in school.

Secondly, school children no longer work on farm chores. The activity time-tables for school going children today are simply mind boggling. From sport to, music, dance, speech and drama there is little or no time left in the week for farming chores.

Finally of course it’s not all blue skies and green grass either. Rain rather than sunshine in two out of every three days is common place in our temperate climate.

The ‘idyllic farm’ in Ireland is run by a farmer who has to put in the long hours, deal with the weather, price volatility, paperwork,deadlines, regulatory inspections and still keep a happy face.

These are the joys of running a small business, because farming is a business just like any other small or medium size business. There are highs when everything is going well and there are lows when one appears to be swimming against the tide.

So what are the lessons to be learned and actions to be taken to bring these two views of Irish farming closer together;

  1. The Bord Bia Farm: The Idyllic Family Farm image of Irish farm holdings should continue but for marketing purposes only.
  2. The Department of Agriculture Food & Marine Farm: All Irish farm holdings are small businesses and should recognised as such. A clear vision of a viable family farm of the future (full-time or part-time) must be created and the policy put in place to make it happen.
  3. Farmer parents must encourage their children to be tomorrow’s farmers. Farming must be included in the extra curricular activities to stimulate interest in the career.
  4. We all must be proud of our industry. We must plans and fight for it together.

Farming in Ireland has an exciting future, we have all the attributes to convert the reality into the idyllic career. Let’s plan it and implement it.

Full Link to the article