The old days when farm­ers whis­tled

Irish Examiner - Farming - - NEWS -

I reg­u­larly cry when I look at the old farm­ing pho­tos that ap­pear on this pa­per, usu­ally on page 20.

Tears roll down my cheeks and onto the page as I strug­gle to cope with this view of the past.

It’s not with pity that I stare at the im­age, only with jeal­ousy. For I be­lieve they were bet­ter times.

Days when time stood still, and no­body else was in a hurry ei­ther. Where did it all go wrong for us Ir­ish farm­ers? Why did we leave this paradise be­hind? Take last week’s in­stal­ment, for in­stance. A shot of a West Cork farmer back in the win­ter of 1935, feed­ing his cat­tle.

If you ask me, a pic­ture of ab­so­lute con­tent­ment and re­lax­ation. A man at peace with him­self and na­ture. If the im­age had been ac­com­pa­nied by sound, I dare say, we would have heard him whistling. That is what farm­ers did back then. They whis­tled. We don’t whis­tle to­day. We haven’t time to catch our breath, never mind tune our throats for en­ter­tain­ment pur­poses.

And there he was, dish­ing out feed to a fine field of cat­tle, with­out a build­ing or a con­crete yard in sight. Low- in­put farm­ing at its finest. Did he have a four­wheel drive tear­ing up the meadow as he fed the cat­tle? He did not. He had a pony and a class of a rig that did the very same job. But with­out a drop of diesel be­ing burned, or a rub­ber tyre com­ing to grief.

That very same pony most likely took the farmer to Mass on Sun­day morn­ing. For farm­ers went to Mass on Sun­day morn­ings back then. They weren’t thrown in bed, ex­hausted after a week of stress and anx­i­ety.

Was he wor­ried about what they thought of his farm­ing out there in Europe or some­place? Was he wor­ried about ni­trates in­spec­tors? He was wor­ried about noth­ing. Back then, the farm in­spec­tor was noth­ing but an itch in a bu­reau­crat’s britches. As for Europe, they had, or at least would very shortly have, big­ger fish to fry. He was let do what­ever he damn well pleased.

As a mat­ter of fact, he was farm­ing in a very en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly fash­ion with­out any help. Full marks to the farmer of 1935.

His cat­tle, as you prob­a­bly saw in the pic­ture, didn’t have a tag adorn­ing the ear. That was be­cause they didn’t need it. They were only an­i­mals.

You see, back then, the farmer didn’t need 10,000 cat­tle to keep the show on the road. Fourteen or fif­teen cat­tle was all he re­quired. Plus per­haps, a sow or two, and a goose and a gan­der. That was all you needed to sup­ply a home with enough in­come to raise 12 to 15 chil­dren.

It was a time be­fore the dreaded credit card. A time be­fore the shop­ping ex­cur­sion. Bet­ter times for sure. Lit­tle won­der then that he would be whistling, he was in utopia en­tirely.

He wasn’t alone ei­ther. Make no mis­take about that. The busi­ness of find­ing a wife back then was con­ducted un­der the aus­pices of match­mak­ing. Once you didn’t look like Quasi­modo, and had some sem­blance of nor­mal­ity about you, a suit­able mate could be se­cured. A gor­geous blonde no doubt was await­ing him back home. Anxious to have his din­ner on the ta­ble, and to cosy up with him later in front of the fire. There was no tele­vi­sion, you made you own en­ter­tain­ment. Whistling! I wouldn’t be sur­prised if he was yo­delling while he worked. The first 80 farm­ers, with 4,134 hectares des­ig­nated for breed­ing hen har­rier, have been se­lected from ex­pres­sions of in­ter­est sub­mit­ted in De­cem­ber. They are in all six Spe­cial Pro­tec­tion Ar­eas. A fur­ther 80 are be­ing se­lected from the re­main­ing De­cem­ber ap­pli­ca­tions, and those sub­mit­ted in Jan­uary. This process will con­tinue for at least a year, with an av­er­age of 80 farms a month en­ter­ing the pro­gramme.

What are the re­stric­tions on farm­ing in hen har­rier Spe­cial Pro­tec­tion Ar­eas?

>> There has been some con­fu­sion and mis­in­for­ma­tion on cur­rent no­ti­fi­able ac­tions in hen har­rier SPAs. To clar­ify, the Na­tional Parks and Wildlife Ser­vice (NPWS) is re­spon­si­ble for des­ig­na­tion of and dis­sem­i­nat­ing ad­vice on pro­tec­tion of habi­tats and species iden­ti­fied for na­ture con­ser­va­tion, in Nat­u­ral Her­itage Ar­eas (NHA), Spe­cial Ar­eas of Con­ser­va­tion (SAC) and Spe­cial Pro­tec­tion Ar­eas (SPA).

It is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of NPWS to see that des­ig­nated sites are pro­tected from sig­nif­i­cant dam­age. Where a landowner is con­sid­er­ing mak­ing changes on his farm that might af­fect the wildlife habi­tat in a des­ig­nated area, he must con­sult the lo­cal NPWS con­ser­va­tion ranger be­fore­hand.

No­ti­fi­able ac­tions are ac­tiv­i­ties or op­er­a­tions that might be dam­ag­ing, and they can only be car­ried out with the per­mis­sion of the min­is­ter.

Only three ac­tiv­i­ties are sub­ject to no­ti­fi­able ac­tion con­sent by the min­is­ter in hen har­rier SPAs. Th­ese are:

Agri­cul­tural recla­ma­tion of heath or bog. Con­struc­tion, re­moval or al­ter­ation of fences, stone walls, hedgerows, banks, or any other field bound­ary other than tem­po­rary fenc­ing . Off-road recre­ational use of me­chan­i­cally pro­pelled ve­hi­cles. No­ti­fi­able ac­tion con­sent is not re­quired for ac­tiv­i­ties spec­i­fied in a Hen Har­rier Pro­gramme Farm Plan, as any ac­tiv­i­ties cov­ered in the plan are ap­proved by NPWS. Ac­tiv­i­ties not in­cluded in an ap­proved REPS, AEOS, GLAS,

NPWS, or Hen Har­rier Pro­gramme plan re­quire sep­a­rate no­ti­fi­able ac­tion con­sent. Par­tic­i­pa­tion in the hen har­rier pro­gramme does not ex­empt the farmer from cross­com­pli­ance sanc­tions or pros­e­cu­tion. Un­der the con­di­tions of cross com­pli­ance, farm­ers in re­ceipt of ba­sic pay­ment must ad­here to Good Agri­cul­tural and En­vi­ron­men­tal Con­di­tion (GAEC) and abide by the Birds and Habi­tats Di­rec­tives, in ad­di­tion to other statu­tory man­age­ment re­quire­ments. The re­quire­ment for screen­ing for ap­pro­pri­ate assess­ment to be un­der­taken un­der Ar­ti­cle 6(3) of the Habi­tats

Di­rec­tive and sub­mit­ted with any plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tion for de­vel­op­ment of land in SPA ar­eas is a plan­ning is­sue for the lo­cal author­ity, and be­yond the re­mit of the hen har­rier project.

The hen har­rier project will how­ever as­sist par­tic­i­pants with screen­ing for ap­pro­pri­ate assess­ment aris­ing from agri­cul­tural ac­tiv­i­ties.

Can I plant my land in the hen har­rier SPAs?

>> The hen har­rier project is an agri-en­vi­ron­ment pro­gramme and has no role in forestry ac­tiv­i­ties.

The For­est Ser­vice of the DAFM is the body re­spon­si­ble for reg­u­lat­ing key forestry ac­tiv­i­ties, in­clud­ing af­foresta­tion and for­est road con­struc­tion (un­der S.I.558 / 2010), thin­ning and felling/re­plant­ing (un­der the 1946 Forestry Act, to be re­placed with the 2014 Forestry Act (to be com­menced) and aerial fer­tili- sa­tion of forests (un­der S.I. 125/2012). The For­est Ser­vice pro­vides grant schemes and other sup­ports to pro­mote var­i­ous com­po­nents of the for­est sec­tor, prin­ci­pally af­foresta­tion and for­est road con­struc­tion.

The For­est Ser­vice also has key re­spon­si­bil­i­ties un­der other en­vi­ron­men­tal leg­is­la­tion, in­clud­ing Euro­pean Com­mu­ni­ties (Birds and Nat­u­ral Habi­tats) Reg­u­la­tions 2011 (S.I.477 / 2011), which obliges the For­est Ser­vice to be re­spon­si­ble for rel­e­vant as­pects of the Birds and Habi­tats Di­rec­tives.

Can com­mon­age en­ter the Pro­gramme?

>> Yes, com­mon­age which may be el­i­gi­ble for pay­ment shall mean lands in­cluded in the DAFM’s com­mon­age con­tainer, and farmed in com­mon. On com­mon­age lands, pay­ment will only be made to project par­tic­i­pants, it is up to them to en­sure that such ac­tions have the sup­port of the other share­hold­ers. There will be no dis­tinc­tion in the sys­tem used to cal­cu­late pay­ments be­tween com­mon­age and pri­vately-owned land, or be­tween owned and leased or rented land. How­ever, each com­mon­age must be scored by a sin­gle ad­vi­sor act­ing on be­half of all par­tic­i­pants.

There is noth­ing to stop ad­vi­sors work­ing with dif­fer­ent share­hold­ers co-op­er­at­ing on this task.

This is nec­es­sary to avoid the anoma­lous sit­u­a­tion where dif­fer­ent scores could be ap­plied to the same par­cel of land.

In many cases, the GLAS com­mon­age ad­vi­sor may be in a po­si­tion to do this. Where this is not pos­si­ble, the hen har­rier project will work with farm­ers to iden­tify a so­lu­tion.

Where can I get more in­for­ma­tion on the Hen Har­rier Pro­gramme?

>> See www.hen­har­ri­er­pro­ject.ie

Farm­ers with 4,134 hectares des­ig­nated for breed­ing hen har­ri­ers are the first of an av­er­age of 80 farms a month set to en­ter the new lo­cally led con­ser­va­tion pro­gramme.

One of our ‘Dif­fer­ent Times’ pic­tures which fill De­nis with long­ing for those good old days.

Ballinhas­sig, Co Cork, 1937: in a sim­pler, more care­free time.

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