Inspiring young farmers to take their next steps

We’ve just had a great weekend in Cork for our annual conference, the biggest weekend of the year for us.

For our young farmers’ conference, we welcomed EU Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan, along with CEJA president Alan Jagoe and a panel of young farmers, and we featured outstanding farm walks.

The theme of the conference was ‘Inspiration for this generation; taking the next step’.

The annual conference brings together members from all over the country and is the highlight of the Macra year for many.

Our young farmers conference was about looking at the issues that affect young farmers, and finding workable solutions to problems they face.

Macra’s work, throughout the year, includes engaging departmental groups, banks, policy-makers and providing opportunities to young farmers through our initiatives and competitions.

The purpose of last weekend was to inspire young farmers by showcasing young farmers within the industry who have excelled and dealt with the challenges they have faced in their careers and highlighting the steps they have taken to build their business.

Speakers included Jonathan Marry, a pig famer who won the Macra FBD Young Farmer of the Year 2015. His challenges included building his business, how he accessed credit, and how he looked at alternative enterprises to build a livelihood.

Kevin Moran’s challenge was access to land so he went about building his business by getting involved in different leasing arrangements.

Tommy Moyles focus was on how to maximise the technical, advisory and other external resources available to farmers to deliver for them at farm level.

My challenge as president of Macra na Feirme and the leader of the only young farmers’ representative in the country, is to fight and work for young farmers so the next steps are possible. We have done that, and we will continue to do that.

We have put in place, as an organisation, a land mobility service, kindly backed by FBD Trust, along with Dairygold, Aurivo, and Glanbia. We have set about addressing that challenge.

Through this service, access to land is no longer a barrier for young farmers. We saw this in Kevin’s presentation at the conference.

Access to finance is another issue and we are seeking clarification on the availability of European Investment Bank funding.

We are working with the Minister and the Commissioner to investigate the possibility of putting together a young farmer’s package to provide credit at favourable interest rates.

I have witnessed it first- hand, as I have travelled throughout the country, that young farmers who are starting out in their business don’t have the same levels of security as older farmers and as a result of that it is harder to get access to credit.

This is extremely important to grow and develop our businesses.

We, as the new generation of new entrants to the industry, will have to be technically proficient in our approach to the running of our businesses.

As we saw from the excellent farms that we visited, the drivers of profitability are the utilisation of grass, soil fertility, improvements in breeding, and adopting sustainable practices like the principles of the Bord Bia Origin Green initiative.

Our expert panel of young farmers have all adopted these drivers of profitability and the purpose of the conference, and Macra na Feirme, is to encourage young farmers to up-skill themselves and take their next steps to improve their efficiency and technical ability.

These steps will result in an increased profitability at farm gate level within their businesses. These measures will allow them drive output, develop their enterprises.

Young famers have challenges and I recognise, as a young farmer myself, that we have challenges as an industry, and young farmers within that industry.

As young farmers, we are business men and women and successful businesses require long-term planning, both financial and business.

Our conference was all about inspiring people to get out there, look at their own business, look at themselves and understand that we, as an organisation, are there to help and work with them but that ultimately, their success lies with themselves.

I was really inspired by the energy and the confidence that was in the room on the day of our conference.

We achieved our objective in inspiring young farmers and hope they can go home to their home farms now and take what they have learned and put it to practice.


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