To start at the beginning of Frankie Gowing’s career as a contractor, you would have to go all the way back to the fifty’s when his father - who was also called Frank - started the business in the local Tullamore area of Co. Offaly.
Frank Snr. Was in the business of ploughing, sowing corn, mowing lettuce and baling hay and had two drag - type combines.
The young Offaly man started working with his father from the tender age of 11. Eventually, Frank Snr. Moved on to self-propelled combines and Frankie’s mother would drop him off to the field after school, where he would help his father with ploughing and operating the combine harvester.
In fact, such was the Offaly man’s competency on the field, he started competing in the national ploughing championships around the same time and ultimately won the U21, Junior and Intermediate classes when his time came.
The Gowing's family always had a small farm and both his father and uncle started the contracting business together to supplement their income.
As time progressed, they took on other workmen and the business grew. Later, Frankie continued to take over the contractor’s business himself.
In an interesting fact, Frankie’s real name is Richard Francis Gowing, but he was advised to use Richard as his trading name to separate his business from his father’s original one, therefore anyone looking for a champion on the plough should look for Richard Gowing.
The experienced contractor offers a range of services including; hedge cutting, ploughing, tillage sowing, corn harvest, baling wrapping, pit silage, slurry & dung spreading and fertilizer spreading.
His fleet of six tractors includes four Massey Fergusons and two John Deere. “We used to run Massey Fergusson and New Holland and I changed them to John Deere and we’re getting on well,” said Frankie.
He also has an NC 2300 slurry tanker, a Dung spreader and a JCB TM 320 S. The list continues with a three-sided shredder, a John Deere forage harvester, a John Deere combine and a Claas Combine.
“Daddy taught me how to do all the work. We all think that we’d like to get into something different, but I do love what I do.
I was born into it and I don’t regret it,” said the contractor when he was asked about doing something else for a living.
Indeed, his own children, Emma (17) and Ben (14) are very much a part of the farm and business. “Emma draws silage and wraps, and she does the tilling as well,” said her proud father.
“My son Ben is only 14 but he’s has a great interest in it now too” he added, stating that his children are brilliant on the farm, but they won’t be pushed into farming or contracting if that’s not what they would like to do.
Frankie would like to see both of his children to complete their education before making up their minds.
He employs one full-time staff member, Tom Finamore, but he hires young local farmers during the summer months when the contracting gets busy.
The ploughing champion hasn’t seen many changes over his forty years in the business, however, he has noticed a lot more contractors available to do the work now.
“It’s getting to be a cutthroat business, but it’s not too bad here,” said Frankie, who added that he is lucky to have so many loyal customers who have stuck with him through the years.
The weather is the biggest challenge for any contractor, and it’s no exception for the experts. The wet weather was interrupting the work, but the farmer simply made himself busy doing repairs and general maintenance.
“When the weather gets better, they all need you on the same day, I suppose we’ll make hay while the sun shines” he laughed.
The contractor enjoys his work but said the tillage is his favourite. “I love to see the crops coming on and see how they’re doing after putting a lot of work into them., for myself and the customer” smiled the 60-year-old.
“Last year was a very good year, there was a good price for the barley, even if the yield was low” he added.
It is easy to tell that Frankie is precise in his work and has never lost his talent for ploughing. He is a member of the Ploughing Association and represents his county in the three-furrow reversing class.
The modest farmer was slow to reveal that he won the all-Ireland in 2016 championships in Tullamore, so now we know that when we’re hiring Gowing contractors, we’re getting the best.