Farmer Focus: Stop and remember the joys of farming

Attending a local farmer’s funeral recently (a man who had passed away in his 80s), I was reminded how intricately interwoven rural communities and agriculture are.

In the eulogy, family and farming were listed among the things closest to his heart.

But the large congregation also reflected his wider community involvement and the respect he had earned over a lifetime.

See also: Holding an Open Farm Sunday event – your questions answered

About the author

Gillian O’Sullivan
Livestock Farmer Focus writer Gillian O’Sullivan milks 100 crossbred cows once-a-day with her husband Neil and father Michael on Ireland’s South-East coast. They operate a seasonal calving, grass-based system with milk supplied to Glanbia trying to deliver work-life-balance and system resilience.
Read more articles by Gillian O’Sullivan

He was a man who loved to engage and tell it how it is.

Despite the growing distance between people and where their food is produced, I learned that farmers still had some social credit in the bank.

My husband, Neil, and I hosted families taking a farm tour as part of the West Waterford Festival of Food and it was an absolute delight.

It made me appreciate the joys of farming that we so often take for granted.

The connection to animals that we experience as the norm is suddenly wondrous through a child’s eyes.

While I had been mentally preparing for probing questions around biodiversity loss, water quality and methane, our elderly collie Lilly basked in the glow of adoration as eight little hands gently stroked her fluffy coat.

A top priority for the children was rolling unhindered down a grassy field – plain, simple, farm life.

Curious questions cropped up, such as: “Is that a fringe on the cow’s head?”

It recharged my love for engaging with people about farming, which is, for the most part, a very rewarding experience.

We chatted about monitoring animal health using “fitbit” collars, and visitors were blown away by the use of technology such as Sensehub to check on rumination and time spent eating or walking.

The children hunted down the various herbs and clovers in a multispecies pasture, while the more adventurous ones even tasted chicory, with one child filling his pockets for a snack later.

The ongoing polarised debate around agriculture is often just among a very small proportion of people with the loudest voices.

There are so many good stories to tell from farms doing a great job around environmental stewardship while producing food, and the general public are eager to hear it.

Public engagement has never been more important. We shouldn’t be afraid to put ourselves forward and give our perspective.