New Book: A Serious Effort to Revive Agriculture and Improve Agriculture in Leitrim After the Famine

Developing Rural Ireland chronicles the trials and tribulations of the revival of Irish agriculture and the development of agriculture in Ireland after the famine.

The book focuses on Leitrim, one of Ireland’s most famine-stricken counties.
The famine exposed major inequalities, showing that there were too many very small farms and also too many very large farms.

At the turn of the twentieth century, Horace Plunkett, founder of the co-operative movement, made it his mission to respond to the need for development in rural Ireland more generally.
In 1900 the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction opened in Dublin and, with the new County Councils of Ireland, established in 1898, began to employ teams of scientific instructors who would work with farmers in every county to help them earn a better living from farming.

Leitrim immediately struggled to recruit the three types of instructors: the general agricultural instructor, the horticultural instructor and the poultry and butter instructor.
This was in 1945 before Leitrim got his base supplement. By the 1970s, Leitrim’s advisory service was more comprehensive, with 10 farm instructors assigned to work with farmers in each parish, and thumbs up was practiced to get the most out of each acre.

The success was generally modest, but between 1970 and 1973 the 54 farmers of Leitrim working with instructors under the Small Farm program (Incentive Bonus) saw their average income increase by 107%.
The full extent of this story is detailed in Developing Rural Ireland: A History of Irish Agricultural Advisory Services.

About Keneth T. Graves

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