‘A complete generation of farm managers has been lost’

The ceasing of the Farm Apprenticeship Scheme in 2002 has had a negative impact on the number of trained farm managers, according to the outgoing Chairman of the Irish Farm Managers Association.

Speaking to Agriland.ie recently, John Fitzgerald said that there has been a complete generation of farm managers lost and this is currently being felt on the ground.

“The Farm Apprecentiship Scheme ended in 2002 and since then there has been a complete generation of farm managers lost. Under the old course there were 60-70 students graduating every year,” said Fitzgerald.

The Co. Cork-based farmer added that there is a massive demand for young trained farm managers and the industry needs 220 new managers every year to meet industry growth targets.

He added that farmers that inherit a farm should also be required to carry out a practical training course as the Green Cert alone does not provide the required on farm experience to take over a farm.

We need to bring in 220 farmer managers every year and we are adamant that any farmer that inherits a farm should do the farm managers course.

“The Green Cert does not provide enough relevant experience for young farmers to take over the farm.”

According to the outgoing Chairman of the IFMA, the only true way to fully train a rounded farm manager is to give them experience working on a farm.

“The best system of mentoring is by the farmer. The majority of people will not learn in a work environment of four or five people.

A young manager will learn by working along side the host farmer for a 12 month cycle as this method will produce the most rounded farm manager at the end of the day.

Fitzgerald added that there has been massive demand for Professional Diploma in Dairy Farm Management, but it was not an easy road getting this programme up and running.

“The new farm managers course was established four years ago and there are 32 young farm managers enrolled this year. It was very difficult to setup up the programme.

I would imagine that the programme will grow. All of the previous graduates have jobs, with many working as assistant farm managers.

The difficulty in getting the programme up and running, he said, was a result of the industry not realising that it needed competent farm managers to meet production targets.

“There wasn’t a realisation there that component farm managers weren’t there to meet the 50% increase in milk production.”

John Fitzgerald will be replaced by Jerry Twomey, Farm Manager of the Lismore Castle Estate as Chairman of the Irish Farm Managers Association, while Roger Barkley, Farm Manager of the Cappoquin Estate takes up the position of President.

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