I’m writing this a little in advance of the new year beginning. My husband just came bounding into my office full of festive cheer, armed with a big tub of chocolates, two industrial sized note pads and a fistful of pens all courtesy of our local agri store in Clones.

Our van is full of coal and horse nuts and shavings. There’s a wheelbarrow in there too, a gift for my sister-in-law who runs her own yard up in Donegal. We know as well as she does the true value of an agri gift.

Horsepeople appreciate practical in the depths of winter. Over the years there’s been bales of haylage under the tree, three-pronged forks and buckets - all tricky to wrap, but must be wrapped for comedy value.

When I ponder the year ahead - the fears and the joys, one thing that remains steady is the knowledge that we’ll have the support of our local agri-store. As small-time breeders, it can’t be underestimated how important it is to know the lads are there when we need them.


They lift and carry, order a smörgåsbord of horse feeds and perhaps most crucially when times are tight, with discretion, they help.

I can’t remember the amount of times I’ve been in the shop getting advice on grass seed or drinker plumbing, and I’m never alone. If you spend more than ten minutes around the till area you are likely to also witness a steady stream of every incarnation of stock-person or farmer, all after something vital to the running of their farm.

I spend more time than I’d care to admit hanging around and browsing the inevitable collection of hand-written notes looking for grazing or offering kittens to good homes. And you never leave without a reliable weather update.

The lads at the store don’t just have to have an in-depth knowledge of waterproof fit, of lice solution, of seven types of stud cube – they also need people skills. If we’re honest, we all know that’s always the most taxing part of any job.

Patience and understaPatiencnding goes a long way to the man with the sick foal or the elderly lady who needs help dosing her alpacas, and the lads at the store seem to have those people skills in abundance.

Living right on the border of north and south, I have an agri store for all economic seasons, like most border residents, the euro purse is whipped out over the sterling purse with the ebb and flow of the global markets.

It’s safe to say though that the support from local shops north and south alike has been a constant, and I know it is for so many others. As my husband says, these shops truly are the heart of the farming community.

So, as the bells toll this year to welcome in 2023, be sure in the knowledge that I raised my glass to local agri stores across Ireland and to their good people too. Cheers all!