Women in farming should consider joining a farm organisation

Rural Ireland can be a lonely place and women should consider making a move to join farm organisations to get their voices heard and combat isolation. That’s the view of Marian Dalton, secretary of Carlow IFA, who said that she has never encountered any negativity in her time with IFA.

Running a suckler and sheep farm with some forestry alongside her husband, Eamon, she said she had a lot to learn when she left behind her office job to farm 35 years ago.

“I was reared in rural Ireland but didn’t grow up on a farm,” said Marian. “Budgeting was something I found difficult in the first year. When I was working, I had money every week; but on a farm you sell something and you might not sell any other stock for a while. It’s that bit harder.

“The reality of sending animals to the factory was also difficult initially. Other than that, I was thrown in at the deep end and enjoyed it. I enjoyed working with animals, renovating the farmhouse and expanding the sheds. I brought a fresh pair of eyes to the farm.

“I never really encountered any problems; although places such as marts have always been male dominated.

“A lot more women have gone into farming in recent years and many are making a great job of farming on their own. More women are also talking and writing about farming. You go to functions and there are more women there who have a voice.

Even working off-farm, women are making a huge contribution to farms. Ireland has changed and women have become more vocal, whereas for years, they were in the background.

When Marian started farming, she didn’t know anything about IFA. Her husband Eamon was a member, although not an active member, and so Marian joined.

Nine years ago, Marian was fed up about the situation of women in farming and wrote a letter to a newspaper which led to her attendance at a women’s conference. There, she met other women involved in farming and IFA. “I got in touch with the IFA county chair and went to meetings,” she said.

Opened Doors

“That opened a lot of doors for me. I met people I would never have met otherwise and went to a lot of places I would not have gone to previously. When the farm family position became available in Carlow, I was asked if I would go forward for that, and I did.

“After a few years, the position of secretary came up. I’ve been doing that for nearly four years and am due to finish up at the next AGM in January. I have always found that my voice was listened to. You’re working together with others, especially the officers.”

Marian’s advice is to go along to meetings and get involved. “It’s surprising how you can get drawn in. It’s a matter of taking the first step, and the same applies to men. Aside from the fact that you are doing something good for others, you are also doing something good for yourself by getting out and getting involved. You can also ensure that your voice is listened to.

“Rural Ireland can be a lonely place and being involved in IFA really broadened my outlook. I have made a lot of friends and they are always there at the other end of the phone.

Farming has become a solitary occupation. 35 years ago there were a lot more people living on farms and there were more opportunities to meet other people.

“It has been a very tough year for farmers, but we have got through other tough years and we will be still standing after this one. However, the number of young people moving out of farming is a concern and the big problem is incomes.

“My husband and I don’t have children but if we did, if we wanted to pass on the farm, it would be difficult from an income point of view. I would love to see the farm retirement scheme being brought back. It would be good to see older couples having an income and young people staying on farms.”