'Biggest problem facing rural Ireland is the flight from the land of younger generation'
My week: Noel Greene
Noel Greene reckons the biggest problem facing rural Ireland is the flight from the land by the younger generation. He predicts that land abandonment will soon become a major issue across all farming enterprises in Ireland.
"I was talking to a non-farmer friend recently who says things must be going well with farming because there were so few farmers protests over the past while. But I told him there was a huge silent protest going on with the majority of young people opting for off-farm jobs these days," says Noel.
"Farming is a great life but it is hard work, made harder by poor prices. Dairy farmers cannot survive on 35c/L of land, beef farmers cannot expect to make a profit on €4/kg for the beef, and many of the younger generation are just leaving the land these days."
Noel runs a 79ha beef and dairy enterprise, comprising the home farm, and five smaller out farms in Doomore near Doonbeg, Co Clare.
His wife Claire is a retired nurse and the couple have two daughters -- Geri-Anne (24), a local national school teacher, and Elaine (22) a nurse in St James's Hospital in Dublin.
The Greenes have been farming in the area in one way or another for five generations, but Noel believes he will be the last of this long line to pursue agriculture there.
When I suggest that one or both of the girls might marry a farmer, Noel good humouredly replies: "I don't think so. I think they would run a mile from a farmer!"
To halt this flight from the countryside, Noel says the Government will have to reboot their rural policies and will also have to maximise our green image with a new drive on agricultural exports.