SPECIAL guest at the West Cork Farming awards was Darragh McCullough, presenter of RTÉ’s Ear to the Ground and deputy editor of the Farming Independent, who said he was honoured to have been invited to West Cork for the awards.
Darragh described West Cork as ‘the Pro12’ of farming and said that Cork is the real powerhouse when it comes to farming and pointed out that 25% of all dairy cows reside in Cork.
‘It’s important to recognise the huge effort that farmers put in and what’s more important is to take a moment to recognise what we’ve achieved and we all deserve a pat on the back from time to time. We shouldn’t forget to be kind to ourselves,’ said Darragh.
‘Having just been at the National Ploughing Championships last week, which had a record attendance, we had a stand there with lots of speakers and one of those we talked to was former Munster and Ireland rugby player, Alan Quinlan.
‘Despite his fame, he suffered from depression, so it’s important that we look after ourselves.’
Darragh recalled his last visit to Cork when he attended the Lisavaird Co-op AGM in January and he was impressed with the farmers he met there.
However, Darragh pointed out that everything isn’t rosy in the world of farming and he noticed on the way down to West Cork the fields of corn, which haven’t been harvested yet and he highlighted the hardship that tillage farmers are going through and the low price that farmers are getting for barley.
In stark contrast to the situation here, Darragh cited a recent trip to South Dakota in the United States where he met several elderly farmers who are farming vast tracts of land in what was known as the dustbowl of the US 75 years ago. Now, however, Darragh said that farmers there are enjoying bumper harvests with ‘wall-to-wall crops’ and 500 horsepower tractors.
‘I was there to film for Ear to the Ground and I spoke to two farmers in their 70s who were farming 5,000 acres without outside help and their children had no interest in pursuing farming.’ He said they are pumping out grain there, which isn’t good for dairy farmers.
Milk prices have turned a corner, but farmers need to curb the expectations. ‘We really need to focus on a brand for Ireland when we compete with international markets.
‘But we have the likes of Carbery too who are returning the highest milk price in the country which is great for farmers.’
The issue of Brexit also came up and Darragh admits that there are nervous times ahead for Irish farmers, but that no one knows what will lie ahead.
He highlighted the recent closure of two mushroom businesses with the loss of 100 jobs as a direct result of the Brexit vote.
‘We export 52% of our beef to the UK and Irish beef is performing well and that’s related to the fact we produce some of the best beef in the world,’ added the journalist, broadcaster and farmer.
He concluded by telling the audience that ‘ if you can make it here in farming, you can make it anywhere.’