Sherlock: I needed to step back from 24/7 role on farming frontline

Seamus Sherlock
Seamus Sherlock
Claire Fox

Claire Fox

Former ICSA rural development chairman Seamus Sherlock, who stepped down from the role last week, said he needed a break from a position which was taking over his life.

Mr Sherlock (pictured) who farms in Feohanagh, Co Limerick, had been in the position for three years and told the Farming Independent that he wants to focus on his own farm and family as the post regulary involved him taking calls from distressed farmers in the middle of the night.

"I wanted a break from the seven days of work on top of my own farming," he explained. "If a stranger rings you at 2am in the morning you know that they're not in the right mind.

"It is heavy going when someone calls you with mental health problems or debt issues. It can be hard to shake it off and not carry it with you and make it your own problem but I hope farmers keep calling me as my door is always open.

"It did take over my life but life goes on with or without farmer organisations."

Mr Sherlock stressed that he left the ICSA on good terms but said new blood is needed and that recruitment of young members is a challenge all farm organisations are facing.

"I learned a lot," he said. "Like any team there were disagreements but they were always worked through and everyone had their say.

"We need young people and fresh thinking. I used to be at meetings and you would rarely see someone in their 20s or 30s at the meeting. They are the lifeblood of farming.

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"If you are a member, you need to work and be committed. The farmer needs to be the one thought of and sometimes they are forgotten, which I don't think is deliberate, but they can never be forgotten as without farmers there would be no farm organisations. They have to come first."

Mr Sherlock said he has attended recent Beef Plan Movement meetings and admires their talk but said "they need to walk the walk now as well".

"We need young people in beef. I'm very concerned that we will lose the suckler industry in Ireland. It's an industry that has predominately older men in it," he said.

"I'm worried it will eventually go extinct. It's a sad day when suckler farmers say they would be happy to break even. I don't agree with young people buying mega dairy farms. When they're older their bodies will slow down. Drystock is my love and they're not appreciated for what they do."

He added that various political parties have approached him but he's not sure if politics is for him and has no plans to run in local elections in May.

"I have been approached by parties who say that I'm well able to talk and asked would I be interested in politics," he said.

"I don't feel it's for me as I like the farming side of things but I won't rule anything out."

Indo Farming

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