A new book setting out the history and story of Farm Relief Services (FRS) over the last 40 years has been launched.

‘From Farm Relief Services to FRS Network – The Journey over 40 Years‘ was written and compiled by Peter Byrne, CEO of FRS Network, who has been at the helm of the FRS cooperative from the outset.

Launched at a staff event in Roscrea, Co. Tipperary, the book includes contributions from several employees, committee members and other associated personnel, with photos portraying the company’s 40 year journey.

It traces the foundations of FRS and how it grew into a major social enterprise cooperative that employs 2,000 across the country with an annual turnover of approximately €100 million.

The book outlines Macra na Feirme’s involvement in setting up relief milking groups and the research conducted into farm relief services abroad, that played their part in getting FRS off the ground in 1980.

It goes on to focus on the many new and innovative services introduced to this country by the organisation, such as hoof care; the first sheep and cow scanning services; freeze branding; machinery rings and the waste farm plastic collection service.

It also highlights the development of other services and schemes to support farmers, including the creation of the Farmers’ Accident and Sickness Scheme (FASS) and the Members’ Benefit Scheme (MBS).

FRS book

The diversification into other business areas is also traced in the book, with the development of FRS Fencing; FRS Recruitment; FRS Training; Herdwatch; Turas Nua and FRS Business Services.

The role of FRS in the community and across a range of different events is featured. The cooperative ethos and values are highlighted, including the key role played by the board of management over the years.

FRS book launch

Speaking at the launch of the book, National Co-op Farm Relief Services (NCFRS) chairman, Francis Fitzgerald, said he knew that Peter was the person to write the book as he was at the helm of the organisation from the very start.

“Peter has such high integrity, leadership and forthright. He has given his all to FRS over the years and has done likewise with the book,” he said.

“Having read the articles by many contributors, it is clear to me that everyone has great pride and delight at what has been achieved in the past 40 years. The book is a history of FRS and a legacy to Peter.

“One of the things that I wanted to do with the book was to make it a team effort.

“The book includes a compilation of stories that were written by current and former staff members; former committee and board members; people who were involved in the setting up of local offices and local farm relief groups right throughout the country.

“We put all of those stories together into one book and that is very much the way we wanted it because FRS wouldn’t be where it is today without being a team effort. It’s the history of all those people and that’s what we wanted to record in the book.”

40 years of memories

Highlights over the years, Peter said, included securing funding from dairy co-ops, the youth employment agency and the department of agriculture in the very early days to get FRS off the ground.

Other highs included securing national contracts such as Teagasc and the department of employment affairs and social protection; amalgamations within the group and seeing the diversification into fencing, recruitment, training, Herdwatch and Turas Nua, and their growth and success, he said.

“The lows were the premature deaths of some great people I worked with over the years. Other low points were a few innovations that we introduced but that didn’t succeed to the extent we had expected,” Peter added.

Peter plans to retire from his current role in February 2022, when he will be succeeded by Colin Donnery, currently general manager, FRS Recruitment.

Copies of the book will be distributed to contributors to the FRS story across the country. It can also be read on the online flip book available on the FRS Network website.