Attracting young people to farm life a daunting challenge

IT should concentrate minds to realise almost half of Irish land holders will have retired within a decade, and the succession rate on farms is very low, as is the number of new entrants taking up farming.

It looks like a major challenge to promote the merits and advantages of a career in full-time farming, versus the quality of life, more sociable hours and often better incomes which qualified young people can look forward to elsewhere. There was a time when the stay-at-home farmer’s son, who inherited the land, was seen as the advantaged one, and was often envied. Those days are history. Today, the inheritor may be asset rich, but is income poor.

Farming parents are finding it increasingly difficult to refrain from encouraging their sons and daughters to concentrate on acquiring academic qualifications for careers outside of farming. Many serious farmers, very efficient producers in a very demanding market, question the low return on capital and hard work, compared to the return on the same capital invested outside of farming.

Even for those inheriting a well-run farm, acquiring another qualification is a high priority, and ultimately farming is more likely to be only a part-time exercise. The greatest challenge which organisations like Teagasc face is research into how farming can provide better quality of life, more socially attractive hours of work, and a reasonable income.

Although the Celtic Tiger affluence outside of farming is losing some of its shine, and job opportunities may not be as plentiful in the future, attracting more young people to life on the land remains a daunting challenge.


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