A west Cork dairy farmer, who has achieved his ambition to get into dairy farming by leasing land, would like to see the government do more to help other young farmers in a similar position to him.
Christy Thomas (34) from Kealkill, who won the Southern Star Young Farmer of the Year award in December 2020, always had a love of farming. Both sets of grandparents had farms – one dairy, one suckler – but his parents didn’t farm.
Having helped out for years on his grandparents’ farms, he was determined to run his own dairy enterprise. His wife, Martha, who is from a farming background, had been renting land for sucklers at Inchigeela and continues to do so.
Christy decided to combine his day job in JFC Pumps with farming. In March 2020, he signed a lease for a 70ac dairy enterprise in Letterlickey, Bantry, where he milks 48 cows in an eight-unit parlour.
Having found holding down his job while running the farm to be tough on family life, Christy decided to focus on farming.
“I was leaving for work at 5.30a.m and with the farm being a good bit away, I wasn’t getting to see the kids,” he said.
“They would be in bed when I came home and I hated that. I packed in the job when the calving season started.”
Christy and Martha’s three children, Oisin (9), Laura (6) and Hazel (3) revel in helping out on the farm, with Oisin in particualr, displaying a love of farming.
Incentives for young farmers
Christy said he would like to see more incentives to encourage young people get into farming. “The new entrant scheme is only a top-up of the entitlement value that you have and the rent to buy scheme isn’t straightforward.
“I know a lot of people who would like to rent land but can’t get it. A lot of time, land doesn’t get advertised; it goes to neighbours. I’m very lucky with my lease which is in year two of a seven year lease, and the owner who has been very good to me.
“My ultimate ambition would be to own my own farm but right now it’s about expanding slowly but surely. It’s very hard for the likes of us to get the money to buy a farm and while you’re trying to work the farm, it’s difficult to save money.”