Leitrim case study in: Developing Rural Ireland
Developing Rural Ireland chronicles the trials and tribulations of the revival of Irish agriculture and development of farming in Ireland post famine.
The book focuses on Leitrim, one of the worst hit counties in Ireland in the Famine.
The Famine laid bare major inequities, showing that there were far too many very small farms and also too many very big farm.
At the turn of the twentieth century, Horace Plunkett, founder of the co-operative movement, made it his next mission to address the necessity for development in rural Ireland more generally.
In 1900 the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction opened in Dublin and, together with Ireland’s new county councils, created in 1898, started employing teams of scientific instructors who would work with farmers in every county to help them earn better livelihoods from farming.
Leitrim immediately struggled to recruit all three types of instructor: the general agricultural instructor, the horticultural instructor and the poultry-keeping and butter-making instructor.
It was 1945 before Leitrim had its basic complement. By the 1970s, the advisory service in Leitrim was more fully formed, with 10 agricultural instructors assigned to work with farmers in each parish, and a game of inches was pursued to eke as much as possible from every acre.
Success was generally modest but during 1970–73 the 54 Leitrim farmers working with instructors as part of the Small Farm (Incentive Bonus) Scheme saw their average income rise by 107%.
The full extent of this story is detailed in Developing Rural Ireland: A History of the Irish Agricultural Advisory Services.
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