I am a 37-year-old professional with my own legal practice, I work full-time and often outside hours as is standard when running your own business, my husband is 40 years old and a plumber with an interest in farming and his own herd. I am a farmer’s daughter and the eldest in my house, my father was a silage contractor and I had my fill of preparing food for workers as a youngster. However, I find myself on an annual basis having to deal with repeated requests to prepare food for contractors which boggles my mind quite frankly.

Aside from the obvious objections which I could point to around time, effort and energy in my own role I would also add the following:

1 The practice of preparing food for contractors is rooted historically in a time when there was not the proliferation of restaurants, fast food outlets and delis with a wide array of every offering conceivable to man available.

2 There appears to be some kind of deep rooted shame or judgement attached to the notion that a wife would not prepare food for workers, my husband has regularly told me he is embarrassed that I refuse to make food, there is an undercurrent of suspicion that one must have notions about themselves, consider themselves too good to cook food or be an all-out battle-axe, combined with an overarching theme that silage making is akin to god’s work and one must facilitate the work by bending over backwards at any costs to oneself to aid the poor ‘crateurs’ that toil on the land.

3 With the onset of modern machinery most contractors are now moving between multiple farms on any given day, passing through towns with much wider access to food outlets than historically would have been the case where the machinery was much less efficient than at present and the time spent on individual farms much greater.

4 To illustrate how the notion of feeding contracts serves to foster old fashioned and misogynistic beliefs of the importance of men and their commitments and the role of women within that setting, when I am required to spend long days in the office or travelling and attending court nobody takes responsibility for the provision of my meals to me, indeed I would be hard pressed to have two dozen dinners made for me in the year by my husband.

Nothing less than an all-out boycott of the practice will alter the psyche given that it is already prevailing in the younger generation.

F (65+) An army marches on its stomach and the social connection is good for community and interaction between farm families and contractors.

F (55-64) The contractor’s wife wouldn’t make him up a packed lunch but he expects me to feed him.

M (35-44) As a contractor we very much appreciate being given a meal by the customer. We bring a packed lunch with us for the middle of the day but if we are there in the evening a meal is much appreciated. Unlike tradesmen we are not working set hours, so we are not finishing at 4.00pm in the afternoon and eating sandwiches twice a day gets tiresome. Morale is usually much better after a break, food and a bit of craic. We provide our drivers with an evening meal if the customer does not which means the onus is put on one person night after night to make that meal and bring it to the field which is no mean feat. Everyone enjoys the chippy but again not every night. Customers who do provide a meal are given discount over the ones who do not as it costs money to provide food for a silage team.

F (35-44) It’s only twice a year and I always feed them. They work very long hours under huge pressure and it’s good for them to stop for a while and eat a proper meal. I always think someday my own sons could be driving for a contractor and I’d like to think they would be fed on farms. I fed eight here last Sunday and did so with pleasure. They are always a very mannerly and grateful gang.

F (Under 25) They are obviously doing a job on your family farm for you to keep the wheel turning that will keep your animals fed throughout the four seasons of the year. It is common sense in my eyes to feed the contractors! Some places they go to they might not see a farmer and be miles away from a shop – it’s not fair.

F (Under 25) As a contractor, we always feed any other contractors working on our farm but we are very, very rarely ever fed anywhere we go working!

F (55-64) Given the fact that a lot of farm partners hold down full or part-time jobs off-farm, the pressure to put a meal on the table for contractors is not acceptable anymore. The rising cost of food and the invasion of privacy are two other concerns. In no other job is there an expectation of someone providing food for you during your working day. It is time for the lads to dig out the lunchbox!

M (55-64) Contractor says “skinny dog, poor dinner”

F (35-44) They are working crazy hours in order to get as much work done as possible when the weather is favourable. It’s not nine to five, shops are not usually near and if they were they can’t eat the same thing every day. They can’t go to restaurants or cafes due to their clothes and lack of parking. And from a logical point of view if the contractor has to send someone to get fresh food, then they are a tractor /driver down to do the work. These contractors need proper food to fuel and sustain them and if my husband was in a tractor at 5am until 12pm then I’d hope somewhere along the day he got a proper meal.

M (25-34) The lads have more respect for the farmers that feed them. They are more inclined to do any extra thing they’re asked to do too. They’d be giving out about the ones that don’t. Not nice having seven or eight lads calling you mean going off to the next job hungry.

F (Under 25) It’s important to develop good relationships with others in the farming community and what better way to do so than over a meal? Also, a lot of these lads work nonstop during the bouts of good weather and can work late into the night or even the early hours of the morning, so I think giving them a hot meal is the decent thing to do.

F (45-54) Always did up until the pandemic, couldn’t have them or other farm staff in the house so didn’t have to feed them. Never went back to feeding them when restrictions lifted and it is ABSOLUTELY PERFECT. Meals were expected and never really appreciated, also expensive. Delighted not to be doing it anymore.

M (25-34) More productive, job is done to better quality, come when you want them as they know they will be well looked after and the hot dinners keep spirits high when long hours can take its toll on mental health.

F (45-54) I like the buzz and the chat when they come in. Can’t expect contractors to work such long hours on a sandwich, have always fed, will always feed.

F (25-34) Everyone should bring their own lunch. I’m sick of feeding all the workers that come here, not just contractors.

M (Under 25) I’m a contractor myself. You hardly get fed at all anymore. It’s just a nice thing to do because we’re working all day and all night and doing as good a job as we can for the customer. I think if you do it, it can pay off because myself and the men will do our extreme best to have the job absolutely perfect for just being nice.

M (24-34) We are farmers ourselves and also do a bit of contracting and I have worked for contractors for years and I find it hard to believe everyone she asked said they didn’t want to do it anymore. Lads work hard doing huge hours, anyone who begrudge them a dinner needs to take a look at themselves

F (35-44) Always have and always will feed the silage contractors. The slagging is savage and the craic is mighty.

M (Under 25) It’s a sad day when you’re working hard for someone and they wouldn’t even give you the tea.

F (35-44) It should be a thing of the past.

F (65+) A roast of beef, vegetable and potatoes, along with an easy to make dessert, and cup of tea goes a long way with lads who are working hard. One of the lads used to say it was great to get off the tractors and sit down with your feet under the table for the dinner and chat. Tea and sandwiches and a few buns or cake in the field makes all the difference come evening. We are over 40 years feeding the silage men. In the year COVID-19 came in my son started to cut our own silage, but I miss the crew coming. You miss the friendship and the chat. Our son has cut silage for a couple of farmers this year and he has been fed very well on their farms. Three cheers for the women who still feed such friendly workers. I can see it is another dying tradition gone by the wayside.