MARRY a farmer and you’ll be doing all right is what many young girls growing up in Ireland were told.
Today, there’s a cloud of doubt hanging over that assumption.
A farmer’s life now is very different to that of 20 years ago. Many are struggling financially, working long hours and battling against Government cuts.
But last night Paul Kehoe, 34, from Wexford, scooped the title of FBD Young Farmer of the Year at a ceremony in Waterford.
This is the 12th year of the prestigious two-day event, which saw 21 finalists assemble on the front steps of the Tower Hotel after lunch yesterday for a photo-call. Then to the background sound of trucks and motorbikes the list of 21 finalists was cut to six.
There was no small talk among the competitors of soccer or rugby. The lads chatted about hens and farm machinery, while also betting on who the final six would be.
“We had a fair idea who would make the final six,” said finalist John Joyce from Tipperary. “This is a great event for networking and meeting other young farmers and sharing ideas.”
Along with the winner and Mr Joyce, Alan Jagoe, Mattie Moore, Jos Tobin and Darren Healy wereannounced as the final six.
This event, according to Macra, is one of their biggest of the year. It is a big deal for any farmer to win the competition.
The lads are put through their paces on the first day, each being grilled by the panel of judges on their “farming secrets” and their financial affairs. This is followed by more interviews on day two.
Many of the competitors, such as Mr Tobin and Mr Joyce, travelled to New Zealand and Australia to pick up tips. Some also worked outside the farm, such as Stephen McQuillan from Monaghan, who works in construction, and Alistair Doherty from Donegal, who works at his father’s contracting business.
Almost all of the competitors are involved with their local GAA club and many have degrees, mostly in agriculture.
One thing’s for sure: There’ll be plenty of sore heads on the country’s farms this morning, with many of the competitors planning on leaving early this morning to head back to work.
As Mr Joyce pointed out: “We’ve been known to go to Macra events, party through the night and go straight to work on the farm the next day.”
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