Invest with care in part-time farm enterprises
Farming is now split into two distinct camps; full-time and part-time. The constant pressure for increased scale forces us to question the viability of being immersed in farming full-time.
This is even in the most profitable sector of dairying, where the promise to abolish quotas will bring the question of scale centre stage.
As a child who was raised on a full-time dairy farm in west Kerry, which has in more recent years become a part-time drystock venture, I have first-hand experience of the issues involved.
While many believe that part-time farming is the easier option, there is a significant time commitment required in order to ensure that either part-time or full-time farming is done properly.
If you are lucky enough to be holding down a full-time job as well as the part-time farming, it obviously means that the time required has to be committed early in the morning, late in the evening or, as is often the case, both. While this can be therapeutic at times, it can also develop into quite a burden at particular times of the year when the farm may require more attention than normal.
If the time commitment grows without an increased financial return, it can lead to the question of whether continuing with the part-time option is viable. We are seeing quite a number now starting to leave farms lying bare as they don't have the necessary enthusiasm to invest the time needed to continue.
This is a worrying trend on the one hand but may lead to farm land becoming cheaper to rent or buy for those who wish to pursue such a venture.
The financial aspect of part-time farming breaks down into the income side and the capital investment dimension. While farm incomes have increased by 50pc from €12,000 in 2009, these figures conceal the fact that full-time and part-time farmers are being included together.