One farmer has called for what he describes as “an inheritance nightmare” across many Irish farms over the years to be brought to light – where the sons and daughters of ageing farmers are caught in limbo, “without a say or security”.
A Cork farmer is calling for legislation to be introduced to “protect the vulnerable farmer’s son or daughter that stays at home”.
Explaining that he had to walk away from his own family’s farm after almost 20 years of hard work back in 2005, the man said his situation is far from an isolated case.
Expanding on his calls to quell such “inheritance nightmare” scenarios, the farmer said:
“If a farmer’s son or daughter is at home for a two-year or three-year period, they should be given a mandatory wage and a successor should be identified for the farm – because that’s a big problem.”
He said that a lack of communication can cause big issues down the line if left undealt with, but also highlighted that sometimes elderly farmers don’t want to relinquish control to the next generation:
“Some of these parents in their 80s are very fresh people but they’re very controlling.
“There’s no doubt that the situation has improved greatly, but going back in the day in the 1950, 60s and 70s it was rampant.
“We had an epidemic of elderly bachelor farmers who couldn’t get married because of their parents,” the Cork man said, noting that problems have often arisen in his locality when a potential spouse is brought into the equation.
“An excuse by a lot of parents when a daughter-in-law comes in is if the marriage broke up, where would you be – but it’s control; it’s pure control,” he maintained.
“I’d like to put it out there to the upcoming generation to avoid my situation; avoid the pitfalls. It’s very easy to go into that rut; you’re [working] at home five or six years before you know it, and down the line you’re stuck in a rut and can’t get away.”
Claiming that in many cases a farmer’s offspring would not be paid a regular wage or offered security, the Cork farmer pointed to the mental health impact this ‘labour in limbo’ can present, stating:
“There are a lot of fellows tormented actually; they feel very dejected that their lives have passed them by.
“There are definitely not enough supports out there. I know you have the Samaritans and that but there are definitely not enough supports.
“You’d need someone that would have experience of farming manning those lines so that they would have an understanding of the farmer’s plight,” he added.
“The problem is that there should be compulsory retirement – the parents are hanging on too late. It needs to be like any other job.
“I know fellows going to the mart and they’re in their eighties. They have sons at home and the sons aren’t even allowed out for the day. You wouldn’t think it in this day and age but there are fellows with no self-confidence – ‘I’ll ask my father’ – and they’re in their fifties,” he claimed.
Asked whether such legislation not be encroaching on the freedoms of older farmers, the man acknowledged the argument but claimed there needed to be a limit or “a time to stand aside and let the young crowd have their chance”.
“I know there was an early retirement scheme long ago but they’d have to go one further than that to transfer the lands. Because it’s pure control and selfishness on behalf of the older generation – and it’s actually rampant,” he concluded.