Prevalence of ‘hobby-size’ farms
Sir, – According to Teagasc, Ireland has 137,500 farms. This is astonishing because the 2016 census records only 71,178 individuals who list their main occupation as “farmer”. This means that almost half of all farmers define themselves professionally and earn the bulk of their income from an alternative occupation, whilst pursuing farming as a secondary, part-time activity.
Farming is a tradition and an activity of proud and passionate adherence in many places, regardless of profitability, and there are benefits to the environment, to communities and to the quality of produce in smaller-scale operations. However, in the face of economies of scale enjoyed by their international competition, the prevalence of “hobby-size” farms in Ireland has a direct and negative bearing on the sector’s overall economic health.
That the current outlook for Irish farmers is poor has been well reported, but the key structural problem in the industry has been inherited along with the family farm. There is little indication that the situation will do anything but deteriorate if farms continue to be passed to subsequent generations in the same form. – Yours, etc,