'No one likes giving up the land - it's a pride and tradition thing'
My week: Francis Larkin, Portumna, Co Galway, farmer and auctioneer
Published 13/04/2016 | 02:30
They are letting out the stock now at Francis Larkin's farm just outside Portumna where the Galway man runs a livestock operation alongside his new auctioneering business in the town.
"Everything is good. We're letting out the stock at the moment and spreading fertiliser. The hedges are done - I wouldn't have stepped out of line on that deadline," he told the Farming Independent this week.
Francis (44) is married to Margaret and they have a 14-year-old son, Oisín, who helps out on the 80 acre farm.
Francis sells all his livestock - sucklers and weanlings - through Portumna mart and keeps 20 cows on the farm for breeding purposes.
He did a milk round in the region for 10 years before returning to take over the farm when his late parents became ill.
He soon realised that he needed a second job to keep everything afloat and did some time with a Nenagh auctioneer who was retiring.
Four years later he qualified as an auctioneer after studying in Dublin and Limerick IT.
"You are not going to earn enough from farms around this size what with the REPS and farm payments on the way down and prices in grain, milk and even beef also on the way down.
"I think these price drops will affect the prices of land sales and lettings in the long run if they continue," says Francis.
He underlines his belief about the economics of running a small to medium sized farm being precarious at best of times and it will be in the advice he is certain to give his teenage son in due course.
"Oisín takes a great interest in the farm but I would be advising him when the time comes to get a career outside the family farm.
"He is interested in mechanics, welding and the like and so I would be saying to him to make sure he has a qualification which he can use along with the farming," he added.
For Francis himself it's a dawn to dusk work cycle.
He is up early feeding his livestock stock, then it is off to the auctioneering office in Portumna for a day's work and then back to the farm for another evening of farm work. Care and maintenance takes up much of his week-ends on the farm.
"I love farming. The love of the land is in you and there is a pride to it," he says.
But he adds that the new auctioneering business helps no end with the bank balances.
So how is the auctioneering venture going, I ask,
"Great. Land lettings are as good if not better than last year and we manage between 80 and 90 properties. This gives the business an economic floor.
"Land sales are less busy. They tend to be just parts of farms and not the whole farm.
"There is something about selling farms. No-one likes giving up the land. Farmers are loathe to sell their farms. It's a tradition and pride thing".
That said, he recently auctioned 26 acres of good land for a good price in Tipperary for €275, 000.
So what about his pastimes I ask Francis, as though he had some time to pass.
"I don't play golf," he replies firmly as we agree on our mutual failure to understand the appeal of the game.
"Hurling I suppose," he continues.
"It's hurling mad around Portumna and Oisín plays it and I go to see him But really I don't have much spare time."