“You will never plough a field by turning it over in your own mind”. In other words – if you want something done, get involved to make it happen. I suppose this is what Macra na Feirme is all about in a nutshell.
Macra is an organisation catering for the needs of all young people between the ages of 17 and 35 . The range of activities its members participate in vary from agriculture to sports and foreign travel to drama and debating. There are 10,000 members in over 300 clubs all over the country with 22 of these clubs in Galway, including our own here in Athenry. Personal Development, Leadership Training, Confidence Building and Agriculture Improvements are among the main priorities and objectives of the organisation.
Agriculture and the well-being of all young farmers remains a core value. Our successes down through the years in this area greatly eased the burden and financial pressure on young people entering into Farming. Grants for pollution control, improvements to the installation aid, a reduction of two-thirds on stamp duty, the introduction of a pre-retirement scheme, increased funding for agricultural college students and a commitment to have young farmers treated as a priority category for quota reserve allocations are just some of our achievements recently. C.A.R and G.A.T.T. quotas and depopulation have been the most frequently used words in rural areas over the past few years.
Agriculture is the fabric of rural society and therefore it is imperative that it gets all the help and assistance available. We have become accustomed to a period of constant change in all the different farming practices.
Expansion is curtailed due to quotas and farming communities like Athenry need to avail and maximise everything that’s available under the various compensatory measures such as the aforementioned grants, pre-retirement and the rural environment protection schemes. It is vital that immediate work be undertaken and the money available be invested wisely in the farm to develop it into a viable holding capable of dealing and surviving into and beyond the year 2000, because thereafter nothing is sure. We will undoubtedly be facing a downward pressure on the prices for our produce. The prospect of World Market prices, further quota cuts and enlargement of the EU are issues that have to be tackled in order to ensure a minimum negative effect for Ireland.
Whether we like it or not we have to accept that there will no doubt be a continuing decline in the number of farmers throughout Ireland and the EU. The present structure in some countries where farming makes an above average contribution to GNP is destined to change. The main departures will take place in those areas. Farmers will have to respond to our post industrial society going beyond their traditional role as a food producer.
Environmental protection will become more and more central. Farmers will also be called upon to play a major role in the development of other activities, such as rural tourism, arts and crafts and other small and alternative enterprises. While it may seem paradoxical to encourage early retirement of a farmer and give aid to a young person to start up, it will encourage an early and orderly transfer of lands and help maintain rural population.
Training in technology and modem methods of management is necessary. The young people are keen to learn and much of the future of agriculture is in their hands.
Macra na Feirme plays a vital role in helping young people to cope with change. Like any organisation our strength lies in our numbers. If it’s travel, social, sports or knowledge you are interested in Macra is the ideal place to satisfy all those desires.
As President Mary Robinson said, “Over the past half-century Macra na Feirme has radically changed for the better, the way in which young people perceive themselves and their role in society. Through Macra’s work, some 500,000 people have developed their self—confidence and their sense of pride in country living”.
Written by Joe Healy
Published here 09 Feb 2021 and originally published November 1995
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