If you’ve been reading farming media of late you’ll have noticed a lot of attention has been paid to building bigger farms and phasing out the small family farm.
Indeed in a certain light, the small farmer is painted as a backward unit, not profitable and not part of the larger vision of farming in modern Ireland.
The small family farm of which there are 50,000 make up 37% of all farms nationally and they are by no means a backward or wasteful thing. Family farms are what made this country. The farm is where we draw our wellspring of culture, experience and knowledge from. To phase out the small farmer is to put a huge nail in the coffin of rural Ireland.
Small farms have supported the progress and improvement of this society as a whole, they have paid for college fees, kept rural economies together and as should be pointed out have a huge role in combating climate change due to their small carbon footprint and their farming in tandem with nature.
Industrial and mega farming has resulted in the death of rural America. A wellknown farmer and author Wendell Berry runs a small family farm in Kentucky and has campaigned for the last 50 years for the continual need for small farms. They keep rural communities alive.
If we are to follow what the agribusiness world wants us to do we will soon have a situation where the landlord has returned and one individual farms an entire parish or village. It will push more people into unemployment and create a situation where large interests will control the food security and thereby the dialogue on how and where our food is produced.
Michael Fitzmaurice is a lone voice and a voice that seems to understand this current battle as he has outlined many times if the family farm dies so too does a part of Ireland. If we push and keep pushing our family farms away from the land then the west of Ireland will become Europe’s front garden with huge area’s consigned to corporate forestry.
Corporate Forestry does not field a team for the local GAA club, corporate forestry does not engage with the local economy, nor shop in the mom and pop store by the local crossroads.
Corporate forestry will result in large faceless groups controlling swathes of land. They won’t live in a local area and certainly won’t contribute to its economy.
The battle for rural Ireland is happening right now. It started with the closure of the Garda barracks and post offices it will finish if we do not fight it with ghost villages and an urban elite telling us how to live.
We need to reward the family farmers, we need to protect them, we need to value them and let them know that they have a place in the future of rural Ireland. Most family farms are run from a second job where off-farm income supports the land. It is the way of things in large areas of the country. And what is so wrong with it? We farm because that is what we have always done. We farm because we know no other life.
We make up a large group of this agricultural world in Ireland and without us rural Ireland will be stricken an even bigger blow.
We need more Michael Fitzmaurice’s. We need to be heard.