Farmer’s Yards, a new Social Organisation for Farmers, coordinated by Dr Shane Conway, Researcher at the University of Galway’s Rural Studies Centre working on the NRN Project, is working to combat social isolation and loneliness in farming by breaking down silos that have traditionally existed between policy, research and practice.
Designed to fit the farming community’s aspirations, interests, needs, and values, this organisation will promote social inclusion in farming by allowing farmers to come together as a local peer group in a friendly and informal setting, akin to that for young farmers in rural Ireland through Macra na Feirme. It is expected an initial pilot project on this initiative, funded by the University of Galway Illuminate Programme, will be rolled out in a Livestock Mart in North-East County Galway in early 2023.
The involvement of a livestock mart in this project is important because in addition to their primary function as method of selling and guaranteeing payment for livestock, the bidding ring and canteen at marts also provide a vital social facility for the farming community, some of whom have no other social outlet. Mart’s existing positionality and reputation as a ‘hive’ of activity within the heart of rural communities, provides them with a ready-made platform and network to diversify their services and become Farmer’s Yards ‘social hubs’ for the farming community in their catchment area.
Dr Conway explains in his paper on this topic published in the Sustainability Journal’s Special Issue on Sustainable Rural Futures that ‘many older farmers rely on their weekly visit to the mart to meet friends, exchange ideas and catch up on local news and this social platform has grown in significance in recent years as many of the natural meeting points within rural communities have been removed due to the closure of post offices, pubs and local shops’.