Thursday 27 October 2016

Helping the fight against rural isolation

Published 03/08/2016 | 02:30

Joining a producer group can help tackle loneliness and rural isolation among some farming communities, a Teagasc advisor has said.

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John Noonan, Teagasc advisor based in Mayo, says producer group members are actively meeting up with people that they wouldn't normally meet.

"There is a massive social and holistic element for everyone involved, young and old, even going to the sales. It's a very active thing to get involved in," he said.

"All members are part of a community with common interests and they are all passionate about the same breed and want to produce quality stock so that brings everyone together," he said.

"Some farmers are in it solely because of the social element and in case the markets get really bad so that they can bring stock but a few pay membership just to be in with the group," he said.

Steven Lally, a young sheep farmer in the Mayo Mountain Blackface Sheep Breeders Society says there is always plenty to chat about for their 240 members.

The group was set up in response to a need for more breeding-type ewes in the mountain areas.

"The one thing about the members of any group is that they are all dedicated to the cause - it's not people drifting in and out of sheep," he said.

Over the last two years the South Mayo Quality Lamb Producers group have set up a Suffolk show and sale at the local mart in Ballinrobe.

"They all meet each other on the farms and they are doing the one thing and we get ideas from each other. We are taking our lead from the mule men to promote the Suffolk breed at the local mart," he said.

The social element also trickles down to local communities and the local economy also prospers.

Mr Noonan said: "the days the premium sales are on for the mules, it's the biggest pay day in the marts and there are people coming from all over the country - Louth, Kerry, Donegal, Wexford and there is a massive cash flow through it".

The groups also seek out discount on feed for farmers by guaranteeing custom to certain stores from different parts of the country every year, all in an effort to decreases costs.

The Mayo Mule and Greyface Group's sales will take place in Aurivo mart, Ballinrobe, on August 26, September 10 and October 7.

The Mountain Blackface Sheep Breeder's annual sale will take place at the same location on September 24, while the South Mayo Quality Lamb Producers annual show and sale will also take place on September 2.

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