I hauled the bundles of Irish Farmers Journals out of the attic, down the step ladder and down the stairs to the kitchen table. “Was I mad?” I asked myself. Had I actually believed that I could keep all of the Journals? There were a few from 1995; the year we built our current house, 28 years ago. The whole complement of 1996, 1997 and 1998 were there. I remember the day Yvonne Murphy (16) was putting them away. She asked why I was storing them in the attic and not in the bin. I told her that you’d never know the day I’d need them.

In 75 years, Ireland has changed. Joining the EEC was a game changer for agriculture. Farming has mechanised and modernised, becoming ever more specialised and influenced greatly by EU regulations.

New technologies

There have been schemes, grants for development, rules and inspections, new technologies, apps and podcasts. Words like premia and headage were born. Agriculture continues to evolve and progress. All the while, the Journal details change with the intention of supporting and educating farmers. Farm families’ stories are illuminated and their beautiful faces, their work and farms adorn the pages with images taken by a professional team of photographers.

One catches my eye, sending me wondering. The front page of 4 January 1997. Jimmy Hanlon, Co Louth is with his six grandchildren and triplet lambs. It’s a beauty taken by John Caffrey. These faces are what inspires the Journal team to be fearlessly on the side of farmers. The current challenges of the day have to be investigated. From the early 1950s, the farm family and women’s role was recognised. The offering for the rural family has evolved, culminating in the popular Irish Country Living magazine that is here today.

Farm family

I remember the importance of the Journal as a child. It was purchased without fail every week. When my Dad, John Campion, died last year, the open Journal was on the kitchen table with his glasses on top.

I pull out the edition of 7 October 1995. The headline reads; “TB Badgers indicted.” Not much has changed in 28 years. TB continues to be a problem. The agriculture minister was Ivan Yeats FG and John Donnelly was president of the IFA. Dairygold suppliers were able to buy milk quota at 95p per gallon from the co-op. Don’t forget “Beef is a dairy by-product”, writes the late Paddy O’Keeffe - and he’s writing about dual purpose Normande cows that have low-profit margins. The conversation would not be out of place today, except for breed names.

Then poignantly, the late Padraig Walsh was looking out at me. His piece spoke about the great potential to use grass to really cut costs. The content still resonates. Mairead McGuinness, then editor of Journal Plus was reporting from a farm family conference. With the Divorce Referendum looming, there’s plenty coverage of farmer views with a poll forecasting a ‘no’ vote. There’s ‘Juniors’ with Nora and so on. In November 1995, Liz Kavanagh is dreaming of perfection to have all the Christmas baking and preparations done by the end of November along with all the yards ready to house cattle. A few more Journals of 1995 and Tim is on the page in October with his Friesian cows. We are milking 49 cows producing winter milk, 1,300 gallons/cow, feeding 910kgs of concentrate, the price is 113p/gal and there’s no mention of grass tonnes fed. Now we are milking 120 x bred, spring calving cows here at home, grass budgeting and milking from grass to make a profit. The focus has completely changed.

Finding Tim

Finding Tim on the page, recognising his blue and grey jumper even though it was a black and white photograph stirs the memory pot. It didn’t take long for me to conclude that the Irish Farmers Journal and Irish Country Living are very much our papers and they bring us news and interest every week. More importantly, the story of family farming is preserved forever. I think I’ll hold onto the few years of Journals I have. They evoke great memories – 75 years is a huge body of time. Congratulations to all involved.

Read more

From 'Mart and Market' and live streaming livestock marts to a gingerbread farm

Achill Island Sea Salt awarded PDO status