Born and raised in Kilclief near Strangford Lough in Co. Down, Lee Fitzsimons helps run D. Fitzsimons Contracts and has done for the past five years alongside his brother, Dean.
Lee’s experience within agriculture began on his grandfather Terry’s Suckler farm, which was then taken over by his uncle Ignatius, who switched the system to a calf to beef finishing system. His uncle now runs the farm in his own right, keeping a mixture of continental crossbreeds in his herd.
“It was a wee Suckler farm, but we moved into the beef and finishing them off.” Lee explained to That’sFarming.
“My uncle is still going with that, but we kind of stepped aside and went into the contracting end ourselves…He just started buying in calves and finishing them off, it worked out a bit handier for us.” He added.
How it all Began -
For Lee himself, his love for the industry came at a very young age and shaped the future of the Down native.
The family’s contracting journey officially began with Lee’s uncle, Terence Fitzsimons, who sadly passed away in 2013. This put a temporary hold on the family’s contracting venture, before Lee’s brother, Dean, took on the mantle and officially started up his own contracting firm later in 2013, D. Fitzsimons Contracts.
“My uncle passed away in 2013 and my brother had his own tractor and he sort of took everything over. It has just escalated from then ever since.” Lee explained.
“He was 19 when he bought his first tractor. He had a plough and a hedgecutter and that was all he had. Once my uncle passed away he then took over fully.” Lee continued.
Lee’s own contracting journey officially began upon the completion of his secondary education. Bitten by the contracting bug at an early age, Lee had always intended on pursuing a career in agriculture and even hoped to further his education at Agricultural College. The call of the machinery was too strong from the Strangford native, however, and at 15-years-old, Lee made his return home to work behind the wheel on a full-time basis.
“I just always had an interest in tractors from what I can remember.” Lee noted.
“I had always wanted to go to an agricultural college, but once the contracting started at home I sort of forgot about it and spent most of my time at it (contracting).” Lee laughed.
The 21-year-old has now been back and within the family contracting ranks for what is his sixth year this year and he truly couldn’t be happier.
“I left school at 15 and I am now 21.” He said.
This is not the only contracting experience within the family either, as both Lee and his brother Dean have previously gone out to New Zealand to work on the harvest during Ireland’s winter months. This is something Lee thoroughly enjoyed and something which can only be described as an experience of a lifetime. It is also something Lee would love to do again at some stage in the future.
“We went out there to do the silage season…It wasn’t actually as big as I thought it would be, it was more like home than I thought.” He said.
“The machinery was bigger though and the farmers were very different to work for…I am planning on going back out, but we will see what it’s like at home first. If there’s work at home, I’ll stay at home.” Lee chuckled.
The team involved and Services provided -
The main core of D.Fitzsimons Contracts is made up of Lee, his brother Dean and a man called Cormac Conway. These three make up the full-time contingent within the Fitzsimons ranks, while they hire in extra hands when needed during the busier silage season.
“He (Cormac) is actually the son of a dairy farmer who lives next door and grew up with us.” Lee noted to Kevin from That’sFarming.
“It is mainly us three, then we get another man in during the summer for raking and some of the other jobs, to keep us ticking.” Lee added.
Service-wise, Lee and the team offer the full range of silage services, both pit and bales. They also offer tillage, ploughing, hedge-cutting, slurry, raking and tedding services. On the tillage end, the family not only harvest corn for local farmers, but also offer the majority of all tillage related services, such as reseeding, land drainage, manure spreading and more. The team cover from 1,300 to 1,500-acres of pit silage per year and 5-600-acres of baled silage. They also carry out an average of 500-acres of ploughing and 300-acres of combine work.
“We do both pit and baled silage.” Lee noted.
“We don’t do too much land drainage, but we do a bit of reseeding…We have a contract (for corn harvesting) and we cut about 250-300 acres a year of crop, between wheat, corn and barley.” He continued.
The team of three also have a low loader within their possession, meaning they can offer bale haulage to local farmers, though this is only done a rare occasion. D. Fitzsimons Contracts also have a dump trailer and digger in their ranks, meaning they can carry out dump trailer and digger work for some of their many customers.
“We used to have a bigger digger, but the work was more veered towards sites and construction work and we are more interested in the agricultural work.” Lee said to That’sFarming.
Currently within the D.Fitzsimons Contracts fleet, is three John Deere tractors and a Massey used as backup.
Tractors - John Deere 6930 Premium, John Deere 6920S, John Deere 6150R, Massey Ferguson 3125.
Grass - Massey Ferguson 29XP combine, McHale F5500 baler, Pottinger Novacat disc mower (double rear), Conor Wrapper, Claas Liner 2800 rake. Krone 30ft 6-rotor Tedder. Kverneland AB85 plough. Pottinger Torro 5100 self-loading silage trailer. Amazone power harrow. Farm Force one pass seed drill.
Other - Hitachi zaxis 50 (5-tonne). Major LGP 2050 slurry tanker. Herron 15tonne dump trailer. Spearhead Excel Hedgecutter. 10Tonne Rear Discharge Dung Spreader.
“She (MF 29XP combine) is unique in that she is the only one in Ireland with a modified 4WD axle on her…She’s well modified.” Lee told Kevin of That’sFarming.
“We also work with a farmer next door who has a lot of acres himself and gets us in to give him a hand. For long hauls, we hire his machine which is another Torro 5100 on a New Holland T7040.” Lee said.
The Future of D. Fitzsimons Contracts -
With regards to the future, it sure looks bright for Lee and the Fitzsimons family.
Over the coming twelve months, the team of two brothers aim to upgrade some of the machinery within their fleet. First up, is a new Pottinger Torro 5010, while a McHale rake is next on the agenda.
“At the minute we are planning on upgrading the wagon to a brand-new Pottinger Europrofi Torro 5010 combi line.” Lee noted.
“We are going to look into going for a McHale rake. We will aim to have that for the next silage season” He continued.
Otherwise, the pair of contracting brothers will continue their impressive progress to date, providing customers with a service they can be proud of, something which is of great importance to the brothers.
“We will just keep going as we are going and see how the next twelve months go. Everything seems to be going well for us so far.” Lee explained.
Why Contracting -
A man who is living his childhood dream, there is no other career or industry where Lee would rather be.
The main reason he does what he does is pride, Pride in a job well done and pride in keeping the family name going strong. This is what drives Lee and his brother Dean forward and pushes them to continue improving in any way they can. This is also the main contributing factor to Lee’s love for his career. The fact he is driving machinery on a regular basis, is an extremely welcome added bonus for the machinery fanatic.
“The main reason for me would be keeping the family name going. Your known for what you do and the work you provide.” He explained.
“It is definitely a bonus (working with machinery). I love working with machinery and I love tractors.” Lee concluded.
Passionate and as dedicated contractors as one could find, Lee and his brother are making waves in their home county near Strangford and well and truly living their dream. It is hard to believe that their journey started less than five years ago, with one solitary tractor. It seems inevitable that the contracting brothers will continue the family name with pride for many more years to come.
If you would like to contact Lee and follow the D.Fitzsimons Contracts team on Facebook, you can do so here. If you would like to be featured like Lee and the team, contact Kevin now on Kforde@thatsfarming.com.