Tim and I stayed with our friends, Mary and James Healy near Ballyragget the night before the Ploughing. We were excited to be having dinner and a sleepover with them.
It meant the field was only a short journey away in the morning. I tumbled out of the bed with a sense of anticipation for the days ahead. The full Irish wafted up the stairs.
In no time I was on the road with the beautiful rising sun’s rays bouncing on the bonnet of the car. The conditions were just right for ploughing.
I followed the signage for the Ploughing. Parked up, I entered. The familiarity of the tracks, tents and coloured balloons was soothing. Our rural society was truly back.
On first impression, people were aimlessly walking. School kids were out in force with teachers trying to mind them. That’s the nature of the huge event.
After a while, people get their bearings and find the things that interest them. For the most part, it is all about the people we meet.
A colourful truck caught my eye. It was an access loo for people that use mobility aids equipped with hoist and grab rails. Every advancement we make for people with disabilities makes society more inclusive.
Next up was O’Neill’s shed surrounded with exuberant teenagers; most sporting blue Aldi hats. Aldi were hiring. Teenagers always gravitate towards a uniform of some sort. Yet the school uniform is abandoned for any excuse.
A big black tent loomed large, reminding me of the property tents of a certain era. I made a drive to go in, only to be blocked by a big hand.
Please join the queue. I looked around and doing a quick head count found circa 100 teenagers. It was the Tiktok tent.
I asked the man with the big hand what was inside? “A free hat” he said. It was all for public relations he told me.
I moved to more familiar territory. Social media is like a tsunami spreading and swallowing us all up. It has become more important than conversation.
It was time to get to conversation in the Irish Farmers Journal stand. Readers teemed in, wanting to discuss issues, concerns and announce their news as they emerged from COVID-19.
Bee Hayes wanted to tell me about The Granary on the farm; her new luxuriously restored barn, two-bedroomed accommodation finished during lockdown. Near Thurles, it’s definitely a central location for a holiday.
Anne Devine dropped in to promote her little book called Encourage yourself, Encourage others. She rightly said that women don’t know how to mind themselves. A lovely Christmas stocking filler for busy ladies.
Neven Maguire, my favourite chef was getting his wares ready in the background for a cooking demo extraordinaire.
Meanwhile, Jack Kennedy was leading a discussion on all things farming. He was ably assisted by questions from the audience fielded by the panel of Irish Farmers Journal specialists.
Lots of politicians and celebrities drop into the Irish Farmers Journal stand. Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney TD made an impromptu speech, immediately connecting with farmers.
“We [the Government] need to make sure that productive farming is supported,” he said. He praised our grass-based system and promised support for small businesses including farm businesses to tackle increasing energy costs in the budget.
So many readers wanted to speak about their new developments on their farms. Solar panels featured along with protecting biodiversity. Others just wanted a friendly chat. Marty Larkin and Michael Dolan from Galway came in to say “hello!” For them there was no rushing during COVID-19. They felt it was hyped up altogether. Tongue in cheek they chuckled: “We didn’t even have to go to Mass.”
Olive Keegan and her daughter Claire Connolly, the Dublin Rose, chatted about the amazing Ireland that Claire experienced on the Rose Tour. We have such a lovely country.
Day three at the Ploughing Championships had a certain familiarity about it. The rain bucketed down, and the puddles returned. We ploughed on.
I think farmers are in good form facing into winter. There is concern about the challenges ahead especially with regard to the high costs of inputs.
People recognise the need to plan forward, to bank fertiliser if at all possible and to try to reduce energy costs. It’s not simple but we can at least have face to face discussions again and that’s a good thing.