Opinion: Hobby farms begone - is output per acre now the only thing that matters in rural society?
Published 18/05/2016 | 02:30
When history students want to gauge the mood of a particular time, it is to the letters, not the news, pages of the newspaper that they will turn.
When I was told this many moons ago by Paddy Smith, then deputy editor of this parish, I was shocked.
I was a news reporter and thought I was doing the important stuff. I now know that, when a journalist writes, they are doing their job. So when someone bothers to write a letter off their own bat it generally concerns something they feel strongly about.
Last week, the Irish Independent carried a short letter: "John Moran is quite correct. Ireland can't afford a rural Ireland, unless that is, the rest of Ireland wants to diet, Bord Bia wants nothing to sell and Fáilte wants to rebrand as Slán."
To my mind this captures the essence of not just the current debate about rural Ireland but also the broader question about whether we live in an economy or a society and how this is being played out in agriculture.
It used to be that all farmers were basically operating away on their own alongside their neighbours and would sporadically unite in battle, quite often against a processor of one of the primary products we produce.
But things have changed. Farmers are now competing directly against each other. This is most pointed in the case of land, which, as the saying goes, they are not making any more of.
Of course, there has always been localised competition for land.