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John Joyce: The one-finger salute is getting popular and even the odd fist shaken – but farmers really need to get on with their neighbours

The general public don’t understand farming or its role in producing the food they eat, but it’s up to us to educate them – and bite our tongues at times, because we can’t allow the divide to grow


Wintered well: Cattle belonging to Thomas Jenkinson at Fenagh, Co Carlow. Photo: Roger Jones

Wintered well: Cattle belonging to Thomas Jenkinson at Fenagh, Co Carlow. Photo: Roger Jones

Wintered well: Cattle belonging to Thomas Jenkinson at Fenagh, Co Carlow. Photo: Roger Jones

Our country was once known as ‘The Land of Saints and Scholars’, but now it is full complainers and begrudgers.

This is a strong statement but I have some proof to back it up. As long as I have been farming I have heard people giving out about farmers, but this year it is more on a personal level.

I need a complaints department for the farm, or a separate email account to log them. I haven’t seen it like this before.

A few weeks ago it felt like everywhere I turned, somebody had an issue with my farming.

Around lambing and calving time, the newborns were supposedly crying at night for their mothers in the fields. I explained that this is normal — a lamb or calf will wake up and trying to locate its mother for a drink. It was just nature doing its job.

Then, something I hadn’t come across before. Apparently while spreading fertiliser in the front fields, there were a few grains hopping over the low-cut hedges on to the road.

Our spreader is set at 12 metres and I was keeping well out from the hedges.

With the price of fertiliser you could say this was wastage and maybe it was dangerous for road users, but I would never have thought of it until somebody brought it to my attention.

Next up was complaints about the hedges.

As our farm is fragmented, we use the public road a lot with our tractors and other vehicles and machinery. All have good lights and tyres and are safe for the road.

For years people were very friendly to their farmers on the road. But recently, the one-finger salute is getting popular and even the odd fist shaken.

Is this justified? I always go out of my way to let cars pass and pull in with wide loads. I understand that not every farmer does this.

In some countries farmers can get a police escort to travel through towns, which shows the high regard they are held in.

So are there more complainers in today’s world? Or am I just imagining things?

Have the general public lost their respect for us farmers? Do they realise we are just going about our work, supplying them with top-quality food? Do they realise that man hasn’t hunted/gathered for hundreds of years, and the fields we tend to is where their food is coming from?

On the other hand we farmers have to keep the general public on side and try educating them as best we can about what is happening in rural Ireland.

Because if the divide gets any bigger, it will be too hard to bridge.

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Not all non-farmers are moaners, of course. Our customers and neighbours are brilliant. These people understand our business.

In fact just last week some of our heifers got out onto the main road. I got two phone calls at 7am and within 10 minutes two other neighbours arrived on the road to help out.

It was a frightening experienced with traffic and young Limousin heifers on the road in rush hour traffic.

If the neighbours hadn’t been vigilant and helpful, there could have been a serious accident.

Without good relationships with our community, we are really at nothing. Theses relationship can get strained very easily and we needs to keep working on them.

There are some horror stories from around the country with neighbours fighting over the smallest of things.

We farmers can’t be making too many enemies in today’s world. We need as many people on board as possible, even if we have to bite our tongue now and again.

John Joyce farms at Carrigahorig, Nenagh, Co Tipperary

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