SAFEGUARDING farmers’ mental health and combatting rural isolation, particularly in the context of Covid-19, are among the top priorities of the newest and youngest member of Bandon Co-Op.
Eamonn Ryan, Ballinascarthy, was elected to the board this month and says he’s very much looking forward to getting stuck into the role.
The 27-year-old graduate of Darrara Agricultural College runs a 108 spring-calving dairy farm with a platform of 125 acres with semi-retired dad Michael.
Describing himself as ‘stone mad’ about farming, as a co-op board member, he’s hoping to work on building a two-way flow of communication with farmers to help understand their needs. But he’s also very aware of the mental health challenges facing farmers of all ages, including in his own circle, and he wants to keep that issue very much in the spotlight.
‘Especially now with pubs closed, there can be a sense of isolation so it’s important we keep an eye out for one another,’ said Eamonn.
As treasurer of Ballinascarthy Macra na Feirme, an organisation all about inclusion, it’s something he feels strongly about.
The young man hasn’t been without his own challenges, and in 2017 underwent a kidney transplant. He was born with kidney problems and his mum Mary donated one of her kidneys to her eldest son that year, and he hasn’t looked back since.
A former finalist in the Carbery Milk Quality Awards, he is also in the second phase of the Carbery Greener Energy Programme. Just recently he invested €12,000 into solar panels on his sheds, which to date have generated 5,500 kw and in general he’s feeling very optimistic about the future of agriculture in Ireland.
‘There are more mouths than ever to feed and we’re producing some of the best products out there in terms of milk and feed. There is some uncertainty around Brexit, but you have to be hopeful,’ he said.
He also feels that greater emphasis now needs to be put on training farmers in technology, both to make their lives easier, but also in the context of Covid-19.
‘The Co-Op’s AGM was by Zoom and, while there was a nice crowd, lots of people said they would have been at it if they knew how, so it’s about taking that fear away,’ he said.