For some, the conversation of farm succession can often be hard to bring up with whoever from the next generation is taking over, never mind getting up on stage and telling a crowd the ‘ins and outs’ of how you went about it.
Well, that’s exactly what the Quigleys from Co Tipperary and Barrons from Co Waterford did at this year’s Dairy Day, which took place in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, Co Cork, on 23 November.
Tom and Catherine Barron, the parents of Maighread and John, and Monica and Séamus Quigley, the parents of Michael, took to the stage to talk about integrating family members into the family farm.
Those at the discussion heard how three next-generation farmers from the Barron and Quigley families ended up with farms in their own name before they were 30.
“We live in Nenagh in Co Tipperary and our farm is in Galway. Michael and James [my sons] farm the home farm in Ballyanny [Nenagh].
“Séamus and I married in 1987 and started farming ourselves in 1990. We have four children, Michael is the eldest – he’s a qualified quantity surveyor, but he was always, always going to farm from the time he was very young.
“Claire is our next child, she is a doctor in Dublin, Orlaith is our third child, she’s a qualified agricultural adviser and is a dairy and technology adviser with Teagasc in Midleton, and then James is our youngest. He has joined Michael in the farming business.”
“I married Tom in 1987 and married into the farm.
“I’ve worked off the farm for 38 years and I’ve come right back to it in the last seven years.
“We have three kids. John is our oldest son. He went to university and did engineering; Maighread comes after him and she did Ag Science in Dublin, and expressed an interest in farming, particularly after doing that course.
“Our youngest, Lucy, works in Lidl. She’s extremely happy there and someday she might want to farm as well.”
While both families are very similar in ways, the big difference between the Barrons and the Quigleys is that Maighread wanted to do her own thing, and farm away from the home farm where Tom, Catherine and John were working in partnership.
For the Quigleys, brothers John and Michael were happy to farm together on the home farm in Ballyanny.
“Maighread, after coming out of college, got this brainwave that she wanted to go into farming. We offered going into a partnership together, but Maighread wanted to be independent.
“She was managing farms, so we said we’d look into getting her a place. I happened to be looking in the paper one day, and I saw this ad for a farm 35 or 40 minutes away, so we went down and looked at it and we liked it.
"It actually came a little bit sooner than we had planned – we weren’t rightly ready for it at the time, as we hadn’t enough replacement stock or anything, but we bought all the cows on the farm and she’s been down there since.”
Never ‘forced’ to farm
Maighread’s brother John said that, while he was interested in farming from a young age, he was never “forced into farming”.
“I did four years of engineering and I’m qualified in that, I did a year’s placement, but I didn’t really like it. I went to New Zealand then for a year, and I came back home farming after that. I just sat back into it and they let me do what I wanted to do.
"If I wanted to change something in the morning, build something, do something different, there was always support there.
“Maighread wanted to do her own thing; I’d say there could be war a lot of days if we were together, as maybe she’d have a different approach than I would.”
“I got the points for UCD Ag Science and in our second year, we did six months’ professional work experience – I went to New Zealand for that.
“Before going there, I had it in my head that I’d get maybe an advisory job or a Department job – a handy nine-to-five. As Daddy said, you’d never catch me out on the farm. I had zero interest in it.
“But then, with the independence out in New Zealand and without John or Mam, I couldn’t spend an extra 10 minutes in bed. I couldn’t say to myself ‘sure, John will go get the cows or Daddy will have the first two rows milked’; I had to get up – it was on you.”
Maighread worked on a number of different farms as a dairy assistant after college, but felt like there was no progression.
With the push she needed from her parents, paired with a farm that they liked, Maighread took over her own farm in 2018.
In slightly different circumstances for Michael Quigley from Co Tipperary, the die was always cast for him that he would end up farming.
“I’m farming since I can remember. Every day I’d come home from school, all I’d want to know was what happened on the farm that day.
"Monica and Séamus were always saying that I should get an education first. I probably should have done Ag Science maybe, or something in Dublin, but all the lads I was in school with were going into Limerick; we were in the middle of the Celtic Tiger, so I said I’d give the quantity surveying a rattle.
"It was something I was interested in, and it was a good eye-opener, but I knew I didn’t want to be working in an office every day for the next 10 or 20 years,” Michael said.