Farmer swaps Westmeath for Wild West

A Westmeath family are set to become Irish farming pioneers when they set off for the prairies of South Dakota tomorrow.

Michael Crinion is heading to Mount Rushmore State with his wife Patricia and three daughters, Miriam, aged eight, Caroline, seven, and Áine, four.

The couple have sold their family poultry business in Kinnegad and purchased 160 acres with a friend in South Dakota, with an option on a further 800.

“We are going for three to five years to see how it goes. My wife is a teacher and she has taken a career break,” said Michael.

“Land prices out there are much cheaper. It costs about €1,800 an acre to buy over there, compared to up to €10,000 an acre here. Because there are no quotas, you can expand if you run an efficient operation.”

South Dakota, bordered by the Rocky Mountains, is in need of farmers to manage 65,000 cows to supply milk to a new cheese plant.

A team from the state visited Ireland last August outlining the attractions of the ancient stronghold of the Sioux Indians and the land where Calamity Jane and Sitting Bull roamed.

It used wanted posters in the style of the old Wild West to invite people to meetings in Limerick, Cork and Westmeath.

South Dakota, home to five cheese processors, two fluid milk plants, one milk powder plant and one whey processor, is aggressively developing its dairy industry.

Low land prices, no personal income tax, sensible regulations, no quotas, low production costs, financial and technical assistance and a high demand for milk were incentives detailed by the South Dakota International Business Institute (SDIBI).

It initiated a foreign investment programme four years ago and has already attracted 15 dairy farming families to move from Holland, Canada and Britain.

Mr Crinion went out to the prairie state last October but had no great intention of moving there to farm.

But tomorrow he moves there to start a new life as a dairy farmer with 1,250 Holsteins.

“It is a big challenge but there are lots of dairy farmers in Ireland who have also had big challenges over the years,” said Michael.

GMTV, the company which produced Vets on Call, has been commissioned by RTÉ to follow the fortunes of Michael and other Irish families in their search for greener pastures far from home.

More in this section

IE_180_logo
Price info

Subscribe to unlock unlimited digital access.
Cancel anytime.

Terms and conditions apply

Puzzles logo
IE-logo

Puzzles hub

Visit our brain gym where you will find simple and cryptic crosswords, sudoku puzzles and much more. Updated at midnight every day. PS ... We would love to hear your feedback on the section right HERE.

Puzzles logo
IE-logo

Puzzles hub

Visit our brain gym where you will find simple and cryptic crosswords, sudoku puzzles and much more. Updated at midnight every day. PS ... We would love to hear your feedback on the section right HERE.