Young farmers are coming into a world that’s already been battered by low prices, low morale and worse weather. However for some people, farming is the ray of sunshine they need to keep going.
Not everyone in agricultural work today is from a farming background. Despite a huge number of farmers being reared on land that has been farmed for generations of the same family, you do get the few blow-ins. These are the people who have chosen farming, not because it’s a family tradition or they’ve inherited land, but because they genuinely love the work.
Paddy Nolan is just 19 years old, and grew up in Murrintown, Co. Wexford. His family are all mechanics, but that wasn’t where Paddy’s interests lay.
“My next-door neighbours were farmers. I loved the idea of farming; since I was a child I was just always into it!” explains Paddy.
“I’ve been driving since I was eight years old, no word of a lie. Then when I was 16 I started driving on farms for contractors.”
For Paddy, it’s all about the tillage.
“I would have no interest in stock; for me tillage is the main thing. In the past year I bought a hedge-cutter, and since September I’ve started up my own bit of contracting.”
Right now, he’s working with a prominent contractor in his local area of Murrintown, and when he’s not busy with them, he does his own contracting work. Paddy is also studying for his Green Cert in Kilmuckridge’s agricultural college, Coláiste an Átha. His final two exams will be in May, and then he’s set!
For Paddy, farming is more than a career he’s chosen. After going through a tough and very low period, farming was the only thing that kept him on track.
“I was diagnosed with really bad depression a few years ago. I couldn’t even get up out of bed. The doctor prescribed me with tablets and all that.
“Then I thought to myself, I don’t want to stay on tablets; I’m going to get back into farming. I honestly don’t think I’d be here without that, like. In three months, I was off medication and I haven’t looked back since,” explains Paddy.
His work and love of agriculture saved Paddy from a difficult period in his life, and he knows now that there’s a way out for those in the farming community battling with depression.
“I can safely say that it’s definitely not talked about enough; mental health isn’t discussed in the farming sector. That’s why I wanted to talk about my experience, and let people know that there’s always someone there who will care. People need to know that there is help.”
Especially for a farming community that has experienced a tough economic few years, the attitudes in our rural communities need to stay positive and open.
“It’s so hard to make money in this career. There are so many young people who would get into farming if they could, but then you see other jobs out there that are paying good money and you have to take it.
“I know young lads who I was in school with and they’ve moved abroad to Australia and places like that. Even though they would have had farms, they had to leave them behind.”
This tough atmosphere for those continuing to farm here can contribute to feelings of isolation and hopelessness, and people are afraid to speak out about their problems. This can lead to bad mental health habits, and can contribute to illnesses like depression and anxiety.
“The hours are another thing I find hard. With the tillage you’d be out all the time working, and it can be tough,” he admits.
Life on the farm is an amazingly positive thing for Paddy, regardless of that.
“Being out on the land is what I love most. You stay busy. It’s tough, but it’s all for the love of it.
“I would definitely love to have my own farm. That’s my plan! Me and a friend from next door want to get our own land, that’s our aim. He’ll do stock and I’ll work with the tillage.”
It’s all looking up from now on for Paddy, and we wish him well in the future.
If you’re a young farmer, get in contact with us and you might be featured!