Farm Ireland

Saturday 24 February 2018

A welcome opportunity to mingle with kindred spirits

The huge crowds in Co Laois at the National Ploughing Championships
The huge crowds in Co Laois at the National Ploughing Championships
Ann Fitzgerald

Ann Fitzgerald

I know the Ploughing was covered ad nauseam by all last week, but I'd like to add my tuppence to the coverage of the event before it's consigned to the history books.

I used to always think that one of the main reasons we flock to the Ploughing is to catch up with friends we mightn't have seen since the same time last year.

But hiking up, down and across the trackways of Ratheniska I realised that many of us are there not just hoping to bump into specific people.

We also want to be among kindred spirits - people with similar values and lifestyles, similar problems and similar footwear. Everywhere you looked there were people just like you - people who live on the land, off the land and for the land.

For many of us, it's also an opportunity to engage with the human face of the businesses and organisations we deal with on a regular basis but rarely meet.

Automated reply services and overseas' calls centres have robbed us of the priceless personal connection. People who deal with other people on a daily basis may not understand how this impoverishes so many lives.

Is it too much to suggest that we were largely there as a momentary antidote to the growing sense of isolation and insecurity sweeping rural Ireland?

However, in the midst of this I heard the story about a farmer who came to the Ploughing intent on marching into the Department stand to withdraw from the beef genomics scheme.

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The problem was his favourite cow. She might not be the prettiest individual but has many other attributes he considers for a suckler cow. Unfortunately, his Eurostar report showed this cow up as one star. He was highly offended.

So off he went to the Department stand. There was a queue so he queued. When he finally got to tell someone that he wanted to withdraw, he was politely told that he had to put his withdrawal in writing and post it in.

Teeth whitening

Speaking of faces, I was bemused at how many stands were selling teeth whitening products. Were we really meant to have Daz-white teeth?

But I finally realised that there is a market for anything when I came across a stand selling decorated light switch covers.

The food section keeps getting bigger and the SuperValu food academy companies had a host of delicious offerings including Loughbeg Farm's gluten free Oat bread. This is made using Glanbia's gluten free oats, which Walter Ryan-Purcell said is of the highest quality.

Elsewhere, there was a stand called Pimp My Pooch, which would surely have won the best tagline competition, with 'From the catwalks of Paris to the dogwalks of Ireland'.

As I stood between the tartan caps and neon neckties, a young woman rushed by excitedly. She had spotted a doggy vest with a Superman logo.

There was also a host of health or maybe I should more correctly say, illness stands, providing information on many diseases you may have heard of and several you don't want to hear about.

But, if your life couldn't be saved, maybe your soul could, with numerous religious persuasions, ranging from mainstream to moderately radical, represented.

The Ploughing might not make a business but it can certainly provide a fantastic launch pad. From what I saw and heard, not too many farmers were making infrastructural investments but they were still spending.

Paddy Halton of True North Technologies told me how, with the help of Enterprise Ireland, he had launched an integrated grass recording device called Grasshopper.

He has been inundated with orders and inquiries. Despite perceptions to the contrary, he said farmers are actually early adopters of technology.

Daydreaming down a trackway as the crowd thinned on the second day, I almost bumped into a bull. A real live, fully-grown bull.

It turns out that he was the Shorthorn fella, Lowtown Ireland, that created a real stir when he won the Interbreed championship in Balmoral.

The atmosphere that evening was truly magical.

The forecast rains had largely failed to materialise and instead we got to soak up some heavenly autumn sunshine. People were relaxed and it was easy to chat. One tent buzzed with music, another with laughter. It was the kind of day you wished wouldn't end.

Now it's all over, we have all returned to whatever outposts of civilisation we came from.

Glad we went, happy to be home, ready to give in to the turning of the year. Roll on 2016

Indo Farming