Farm Ireland

Tuesday 20 March 2018

Comment: From unsung heroes to TV stars - farmers should take a bow

The Shalvey family, Geraldine, Colm, Aoife, Enda and Patrick with dog Nala on their farm at Maudabawn, Co Cavan. Photo: Lorraine Teevan
The Shalvey family, Geraldine, Colm, Aoife, Enda and Patrick with dog Nala on their farm at Maudabawn, Co Cavan. Photo: Lorraine Teevan
Farmer of the year, Tom Dunne, Laois with Dearbhail Brady, marketing director, Zurich General Insurance. Photo: Douglas O’Connor
Ann Fitzgerald

Ann Fitzgerald

RTÉ's Big Week on the Farm might be the most important TV coverage of Irish farming since Telefíís Feirme half a century ago.

When Big Week first hit our screens last spring, I thought it was corny; that the presenters were overly enthusiastic and it was just a bit of light-hearted fluff for townies. But I've changed my tune entirely.

The series is hugely informative, even for farmers. Most farmers know their own sector well but not others and lots of us also have gaps in what we know about the natural world around us.

The Secret Life segment on the domestic hen, narrated in a deep, authoritative voice by Philip O'Sullivan, made me laugh.

Accompanied by gentle classical music, we first see a rooster "surveying the ladies". Cowboy music kicks in as another rooster swoops in and "squares up to the interloper". We seem to be heading for a showdown, but the intruder backs down and the boss rooster mates with a hen.

However, later, there is fascinating footage of chick development right through to breaking out of an egg.

This mix of fun and fact ran throughout the various reports and made for compelling viewing.

It is vital that agriculture keeps the general public tuned in to its importance.

Also Read

But, in the course of telling all these stories, what we are also getting is an insight into the remarkable work that farmers up and down the country do every day of the week. Most of this enterprise goes unseen and unsung. So it's also a great showcase for Irish farming.

If this doesn't seem too trite a link, there is now an opportunity to continue acknowledging farmers who are leading the way in their enterprises through the Zurich Farm Insurance Farming Independent Farmer of the Year Awards.

With a prize fund of €19,000, the awards celebrate the best in Irish farming, by recognising and rewarding innovation, hard work and passion.

Farmers are often reluctant to go forward for these kinds of things. This is for a variety of reasons. Generally, farmers are a modest bunch and are afraid they will be seen as having a swelled head.

Others are afraid they won't win while others still are afraid that they might win, because they would have to admit they are making money!

But mainly I think it's that farmers don't have the confidence, ie they feel that there are loads of people doing things better than themselves.

If someone is doing a job well, they deserve to be recognised by their peers.

So look in the mirror or around at you neighbours and if you see someone doing a good job, pick up the phone and ask if you can nominate them.

The award categories are Beef, Sheep, Dairy, Tillage, Rising Star and Farm Safety, with an overall winner picked from the category winners.

Previous Grand Prix winners have come from across the board.

Carlow tillage farmer Kevin Nolan, who farms mostly leased land, won the inaugural contest in 2014. He was followed by Wicklow dairy farmer Noel McCall who, unusually, does not have a family background in farming. Last year, it was the turn of Laoisman, Tom Dunne, an organic beef farmer.

It is free and quick to enter. You can nominate yourself or be nominated by a third party (Teagasc adviser, friend, family member, etc). Apply online at

Indo Farming

More in Rural Life