I had a hedge planting project, so on a rare dry February afternoon, I hightailed it up to the scenic north western corner of Co Meath to buy some native whitethorn quicks.

I’ve being going to the same supplier for 40 years now but while my man may see me out, this once very significant enterprise in that part of the country is almost finished.

Soon there will probably be no native whitethorn propagation and it’ll be all imported stock, which risks bringing the fire blight disease, endemic in Europe, into this country. Whitethorn is a host to the disease and we have perfect conditions for it to multiply and spread.

But despite this, the Department of Agriculture is permitting the import of whitethorn, as there’s insufficient native production to meet the Agri-Climate Rural Environmental Scheme (ACRES)-driven demand. Subsidies have distorted the market.

A few decades ago, whitethorn seed gathering and propagation was an important business up in north Meath with at least 50 growers.

Quicks were produced for the native market and exported to England. Many of these industrious and innovative farmers grew damsons as well, also for export.

But the day and age of the industrious farmer seems to be gone. Nowadays it appears to me that every second farmer in the country just wants to milk bloody cows and become a slave to Tirlán and Dairygold et al. I really don’t get it.

I fully appreciate why a family farm might want to milk a couple or 300 cows because no other enterprise will provide the same level of income. If cows are your thing, it’s a no-brainer. But all these 500-cow plus herds and multiples thereof? I don’t get it.

There must be easier ways to make money.

Anyhow, I’ve said enough and will retreat to the quietness of the once agriculturally diverse country of the whitethorn growers.

This outpost of Co Meath actually borders three counties at this narrow point, namely Cavan, Monaghan and Louth. This is precisely the reason why the farmers up there are industrious and enterprising.

You see, Meath farmers are less industrious. Bigger farms, better land and easier money have made us so. And, dare I say it, we’re probably a bit lazy and certainly rough and ready.

The Cavan and Monaghan farmers are more industrious, tidier and enterprising and the Louth ones wouldn’t be too bad either.

Think of their pig and poultry industry and those entrepreneurial farmers up there who have diversified into very successful businesses. I’d love to name a few but they’re a modest lot and mightn’t like it. But the Cavan and Monaghan fellows are altogether better business people than we Meath farmers are.

They have to be.

Genotyping is all the rage now but never mind the cows; we need to do it with farmers – AI is certainly not an option.

To breed better and more entrepreneurial farmers, we need to do a treble cross. First, take a consenting mighty Monaghan sire and a cute Cavan dam.

We do the same with a muscular Meath sire and lovely Louth dam and then cross the progenies who should throw out a hardworking, solid, tidy and entrepreneurial farmer. They might even be good looking as well.

But hang on a moment, I hear my northern readers say, what’s the Meath sire bringing, if anything, to the mix? Not a lot but hopefully a lump of decent land and a bit of craic.

You see Ulster farmers are all very well and could mind mice at a crossroads, but it’s not enough. We need Meath blood for a more laid back attitude and a bit of divilment.

We’re good at that.