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Monday 25 September 2017

'Who needs Tinder when you can join Macra?' - new head of farming group

Macra Queen of the Land contestants at a recent event in Tullamore. Photo: Paul Moore
Macra Queen of the Land contestants at a recent event in Tullamore. Photo: Paul Moore
James Healy

Olivia Kelleher

The newly elected President of Macra na Feirme, James Healy, says the organisation is the unofficial dating agency of rural Ireland and that there is no need for dating site Tinder when you can join Macra.

Speaking to Patricia Messinger, on C103's 'Cork Today Show', Mr Healy stressed that the organisation was renowned for its match-making skills.

"Plenty of members of my own club would be 'Macra babies' as we like to title them. It is the unofficial dating agency of rural Ireland. Who needs Tinder when you can join Macra?

"We have somewhere in the region of 9,000 members. And that takes everybody from the ages of 17 to 35. While most of our members would be towards the younger end of that age bracket there are members all across the age range."

The 36th national president of Macra na Feirme said the biggest challenge facing the organisation is that people are moving from rural to urban areas to follow employment.

"All these job opportunities are becoming more and more an urban phenomenon. And I think what we really need to be doing to keep our rural communities alive is that we need to be fighting to keep employment in rural areas. Because that is going to ensure that there are people there who want to join Macra and can join Macra. You cannot blame people for following the job opportunities. They leave for third level and there is nothing to draw them back home again."

Mr Healy, from Donoughmore in Co Cork, said broadband needs to be upgraded in rural areas to make such places viable options for firms looking to move out of the city.

He expressed concern about the potential impact of Brexit on rural communities. He says his organisation is doing everything possible to prepare farmers for the upheaval.

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"Brexit is going to be a huge worry for us. We do not know what is going to happen. The main problem is the volatility it is causing because nobody knows what is going to happen or how it is going to turn out.

"As an organisation what we are trying to do for our members who are young farmers is to try to train them to control that volatility within their own farm gate, and to give them the skills to try to eliminate the impact it is going to have on their business."

Mr Healy attended more than 140 Macra events in the build up to being elected president of the organisation. He emphasises the organisation's clubs are not just rural.

"We have a club in Cork city. We have a couple of clubs in Dublin city. And they all get a different experience from the organisation. We want agriculture to be an industry that people understand.

"It is important that clubs in urban areas are experiencing Macra because we can remake that connection between the food on people's plate and where it came from and give people in urban areas a better understanding of rural areas. And if we have a better understanding there is less of an urban/rural divide."

Macra na Feirme was founded in 1944 by Stephen Cullinan and is one of Ireland's oldest organisations. Since its foundation more than 250,000 people have passed through its ranks.


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