Hannah Quinn-Mulligan: Farmers should not be afraid of change – but they must be prepared for it
In the 1960s, a sex scandal involving a couple of teenage showgirls rocked the English Conservative government and ended in a court case.
One of the politicians involved, Lord Astor, strenuously denied in court ever having met Mandy Rice-Davies, who allegedly made “immoral income” from her dealings with him. When this was presented to her by a lawyer, she slyly replied, “Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he?”
With a short, sharp sentence, the 18-year-old shot through the credibility of one of the most respected conservative colleagues of his time.
The tabloids went for Mandy and fellow showgirl Christine Keeler, gutting their characters.
The saga haunted Keeler throughout her life, but by contrast, Rice-Davies seemed to use the shame as an opportunity. She became a successful businesswoman and nightclub owner in Tel Aviv. It was a world away from her upbringing in the Welsh glens, but she clearly wasn’t afraid of change or reinvention.
Sometimes we forget that time moves any situation, and at the end of the day all we can do is plan to land on our own two feet.
That’s a thought that comes to mind when I see images of the dark, towering skeletal remains of giant whaling stations in Antarctica. Whaling was once the fifth-largest sector of America’s economy, and everything from fashion to fuel came from the mass slaughter of whales.
Closer to home, many people may have noticed tiny stone sheds on farms around Co Clare. Before sheep came to the country, the Irish kept goats and the kid was housed in a tiny shed to ensure that the goat girl returned each day from trekking the Burren to feed and then milk it.
At the end of summer the kid was slaughtered – the tender meat was considered a delicacy.
From forgotten little goat pens to massive whaling stations, no industry or person is too important not to confront change at some point.
Sometimes I look around my farm and wonder which aspects of current farm life will be used as museum pieces in the next few decades and which will stand the test of time.
Our arm still has a barn with old-fashioned, wooden milking parlors with stone troughs in front. With seven stalls on either side of the shed and a custom built open manure channel and drain, it was a top class facility 100 years ago but is now used as a storage area for fencing equipment.
Some farmers reading this will have similar examples on their farms from the past.
Everyone knows that between climate change, new gang rules and mounting public criticism, agriculture faces a world of challenges, but what amazes me is the way those in power are throwing their hands in the air and inciting mass panic and hysteria.
I’m a big fan of the radio show RTÉ The businessand it seems that 80 percent of the successful entrepreneurs they show grew up on farms and attribute their success to learning to be resourceful from a young age on the farm.
This ingenuity is evident on almost every farm I walk into, where a farmer has invented a new tool or system to make his life easier. Still, we seem to be consistently represented by people who want to deal with problems and use scapegoats as piñatas.
It doesn’t matter what size, shape, or party color the scapegoat pinata is, it can be smashed to pieces, but it won’t change the fact that changes are about to happen for the industry.
The time for panic is long gone; Now it’s time to find solutions. Those solutions could include looking at other countries where farms earn one income from a staple herd and another from solar panels on their shed roofs. Time moves and times change.
In Ireland in the 1960s there was a peasant protest that shook the nation, and in Britain a sex scandal effectively overthrew the government.
Fast forward to more recent times and a scandal involving a pole dancing businesswoman and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is washing it like water off a duck’s back, and in Ireland a bitter peasant protest is leaving more questions than answers.
Times have changed, but ultimately farmers should realize that they don’t need a scapegoat to survive, just a little more confidence in their own abilities.
Hannah Quinn-Mulligan is a journalist and organic beef and dairy farmer; templeroedairy.ie
https://www.independent.ie/business/farming/comment/farmers-shouldnt-fear-change-but-they-need-to-be-ready-for-it-42328822.html Hannah Quinn-Mulligan: Farmers should not be afraid of change – but they must be prepared for it