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has been, and continues to be, an ongoing challenge for
farming. No business can survive if the next generation
are not encouraged, enthused, empowered and excited to
take it on. The Land Mobility Service ensures that there
are options open to farmers who want to wind down,
retire or exit from farming. While it is operated by Macra
na Feirme, it is an entirely independent service which
supports sustainable farm collaborations rather than
siding with either party involved. It is especially helpful
for farmers without any identified successor. For the
young farmer, it too provides an opportunity to establish
oneself in a farming career without having the high capital
cost of land acquisition. No doubt, it is not a solution
for every farmer, however, those that are interested in
encouraging and empowering the next generation of
farmers, be that their own children or a stranger's, should
explore the collaborative farming options promoted by
the Land Mobility Service team.
Our Macra Agricultural Skillnet has grown over seven-
fold from its foundation in 2016. Macra Agricultural
Skillnet will provide training during 2019 to over 1,200
people from across the country, delivering over 35
different courses with over 130 training events during
the year. The types of training programmes include
Masters in Agricultural Extension and Innovation;
a 10-day grass measurement course; DIY Artificial
Insemination; or Hoof-Care. Macra Agricultural Skillnet
also provides training in Strategic Management and
People Management courses delivered over four days
in November and December in six locations nationwide
and is ideally suited to farmers considering taking on
additional farm labour.
Macra na Feirme has undergone a dramatic
transformation in recent years starting with the creation
of those two additional services which have become
tremendously successful. In that same time, Macra na
Feirme had modernised its governance structure in line
with new Charities Regulations and legislation. These
changes in structure included change to a charitable
company structure with a board of directors. It includes
the inclusion of external independent directors for the
first time in the organisation's history. Without making
these major governance and structural changes, the
organisation's very future was uncertain as state funders
would almost certainly have withdrawn were it not to
achieve compliance with modern company and charity
legislation. National Council now is primarily responsible
for electing a board of directors of 13 people ­ 10 members
and three external independent directors.
During that same period of time, we have modernised
the IT infrastructure through the use of a number of
cloud-based technology solutions; and we have added
online membership facilities. The club, club members,
and club activity, is still the heartbeat of Macra na Feirme
throughout the country. Today, we are growing at a rate
of approximately 400 new members per month, the
equivalent of a net 12 per cent growth year on year. Many
new members subscribing to Macra na Feirme are using
our online sign-up on
Macra na Feirme and its leaders have been at the
forefront of innovation and catalysts for change since
the organisation's very inception. That mentality runs
through the veins of each club and member of the
organisation. This catalyst for change was never more
evident over the course of the last few months when
Macra na Feirme marched in the Dublin Pride Parade for
the first time, along with the GAA and An Garda Síochana.
This very public declaration of openness and inclusiveness
in the organisation was followed by "pink training" or
LGBT Awareness training for staff and followed again
by the same LGBT awareness training for almost 300 of
Macra's club officers in late September.
Equally as important as members are the staff team
that support the growth and development of our
members. Our staff team has increased to a team of
over 20 people in recent years. Recent staff changes
include the promotion of long standing Macra stalwart
Derrie Dillon to the role of Head of Advocacy, Policy
and Membership. Derrie had previously served as
Agricultural Affairs Manager. Brian Golden has joined
Macra na Feirme as Finance Manager bringing with him
a wealth of experience gained across the charity and
multinational sectors. Stephanie Roy joins the team as
Communications & Public Relations Manager, a Canadian
national with considerable communications experience as
Chief of Staff to the Minister Education & Training in the
Provincial Legislature of Manitoba. Earlier in the summer,
Lorraine McDerrmott took up the role of Membership
Administrator having previously worked in Microsoft,
Vodafone and Topline.
As we look the future, Macra na Feirme is well positioned
to tackle the challenges ahead. Our membership growth
is rising year on year; our governance and decision-
making structures have evolved to meet legal and funding
requirements; our people ­ members, staff, and volunteers
­ are creating a welcoming, inviting space in Macra clubs
for all rural young people to grow into the future leaders
of their rural communities. The ethos and leadership
attributes of Stephen Cullinan and his fellow founding
members continue to live on in the current generation of
Macra leaders at club, county and national level.
Ar aghaidh le Macra na Feirme!
Onwards with Macra na Feirme!