The End of the Family Farm in Ireland? was with great disappointment this week that I saw big headline in the Irish Independent saying “The Family Farm as we know it has no future“. Immediately I was dejected, because that is what we are here. A family farm: Me my dad, my mum and anyone else really that would like to give a hand.

I will have to concede that he is probably correct when it comes to certain sectors of farming, because of a number of factors:

  • They are inefficient at what they are doing, with very low margins for each unit of product sold.
  • They do not have the sufficient scale to make it work. I would have to say that small farms are not worth working either … but the definition of a small farm is getting bigger and bigger all the time. When does this stop?
  • Poor education: Many of the farmers of today never finished school, and thus never got a proper education. That does not mean to say that they lack intelligence, but often have a very narrow knowledge base.

They also comment that “the familiar risks are underestimated and the unfamiliar risks are overestimated“. I have seen this with years with farmers, because they are afraid of change. Flexibility is not something they are comfortable with.

But as for floating farms on the stock exchange … well that’s a different ball game all the same. I would be surprised if we get to the stage where we have farming companies that are big enough to float.

As I read down through the article, my heart warmed a little to what he was writing. At least he seemed to be writing with good business sense, and with little nostalgia, or favoritism. He was objective, and left with the thought that family farms will survive if they are managed properly like a business, but that there will be a growth in businesses that own farms too.

My own thoughts on the subject are that the profit a business would achieve on investing in a farm would only leave very small margins, something that businesses are uncomfortable with when they cannot control the sale price of their product. It does surprise me that more business did not buy farms in the last ten years when the value of land was spiraling, but i suppose farming was outside their realm. Now would definitely not be a good time for them to buy land, as its value is falling, thus making it a very attractive sector to invest in.

And everywhere I have read about family farming / business farming, I hear that there is a place for both, so long as you are efficient and good at what you do. So, there is hope for me yet 🙂

But when all comes to all, I think the family is much more important than the farm!

Note: The family  picture is not my family … sorry, but it fits the bill.

The full article can be found here in the Irish Independent.


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