12 February 2022
By Mary Bermingham
“Contractors” promises an amazing insight into the world of the Irish Contractor, farming and rural life in Ireland today.
There’s a monumental lot of work to be done on the land from April to September as farming enters its busiest 6-month period. From slurry spreading to hedge cutting, ploughing to round baling, the farmers of Ireland can’t do it alone. So they turn to farming contractors and their families. These are their stories – This is ‘Contractors’.
It’s not a copy of Jeremy Clarkson’s Farm , per se, but surely the unexpected success of that Amazon Prime series did highlight there is public interest in ‘fly on the wall’ Farming activities.
‘Contractors’ is a seven-part observational entertainment-based documentary series exploring the working lives and personal narratives of 7 agricultural contracting families from diverse locations over a critical six month period from April to September: a unique practical and personal insight into contemporary life in rural Ireland.
Featuring 7 feisty contracting crews from Limerick, Kerry, Meath, Tipperary, Galway, Donegal and Clare, the series highlights their professional challenges, the high and lows of their daily routine and their hopes and dreams, presenting a no-holds barred portrait of 7 extraordinary crews for hire – all members of an agricultural sub-economy without which farming would not be possible.
From April to September, farming enters its busiest 6-month period. There’s a monumental job of work to be done and the farmers of Ireland can’t do it alone. So, they turn to farming contractors and their families: men and women, young and old – hired hands and subcontractors – driving the tractors, excavators and combines, foraging, hauling, seeding, cutting and harvesting. Making farming happen.
Without them, fields would be unploughed and unseeded, slurry would be unspread, silage would be uncut and hedgerows would descend into chaos.
Culturally and economically, farming is Ireland’s oldest and most resilient industry. It’s such a part of who we are – so deeply rooted in the Irish psyche – that we often take it for granted.
For the 137,000 families whose livelihoods depend on it, farming is a full-on, full-time job. But few farmers have the time, the manpower or the expensive specialist plant required to do it. And so, they call on the services of 1800 agricultural contractors from all around the country.
Every year and in all weathers, these hardworking journeymen and women arrive with 20,000 tractors and harvesters, €150 million worth of agricultural machinery and 10,000 full and part-time operators to get the job done. They are the ‘white knights’ of farming.
In a single season, their crews will harvest five million bales of silage, spread 10 billion litres of slurry and handle a mammoth nationwide programme of hedge-cutting, reseeding, crop spraying, fencing, ploughing and drainage maintenance.
Along with this gargantuan workload, the contractors will deal with the immense pressures of a seasonal industry requiring huge investment in equipment, long hours, unpredictable schedules and skilled workers and operators that are often hard to find. Timeframes are short, fuel is expensive, bad weather can derail a season and red tape can reduce a workforce to critical levels.
These are real, hardworking people. Some are full-time farmers who offer their skills and machines for hire come ploughing season and harvest time. Others are dedicated contractors who hire additional help for the busy months – among them, mums, dads, and students earning money to cover the rent – a connected community in a no-nonsense world where time costs money and excuses count for nothing.
In their company, we’ll share the ups and downs, daily routines, unexpected twists, good times and bad as six contractors gear up to tame the land. We’ll discover not only how they deal with shrinking margins and logistical challenges, but also how they manage the equally daunting balance of work and family life.
With an unprecedented mix of Irish culture, heritage, experience and contemporary society presented in the Irish Language featuring many strong female led and female centred enterprises this series will be a melting pot of all ages, generations and sexes set in the Ireland of the 2022’s blended into a high quality programme that will stand the test of time.
Contractors are the heartbeat of rural Ireland – crucial players in a food-producing sector that is central to Ireland’s economy. Their job is arguably more difficult than that of farmers themselves and without them, modern farming itself would not be possible.
Over the course of our seven episodes – each one defined by a separate theme based on the time of year and the work involved – we will intercut between the personal lives and daily routines of our protagonists. As the series progresses, we’ll get to know them as we become increasingly invested in the challenges they face both on and off the job.
There’ll be machinery to repair, herds to milk, bread to bake, crews to wrangle, clients to appease, weather to predict and deadlines to meet. Set against the backdrop of each contract will be the weddings, family crises, pub quizzes, study regimes, demanding siblings and kitchen sink drama of real life as well as the opportunity to discuss and deal with issues such as farm safety, climate change, the changing role of the farmer and discuss other controversial topics that may arise and evolve as we go.
Meet the contractors
Alastair Doherty from Donegal runs Bobby Doherty Agri, a company started by his father over 40 years ago. They have 130 dairy cows and supply their milk to Aurivo-Co-Op. When the milking is done Alastair and crew are out and about spreading slurry, ploughing, reseeding, round baling and cleaning septic tanks. With 8 Massey Fergusons at his disposal there’s no better man for the job!
Moloney Agri & Tree Care
Clogheen, Co. Tipperary
Tipperary man Thomas Moloney runs Moloney Agri and Tree Care along with his father Jim. They do silage work such as mowing, tedding, raking and baling of silage hay and straw using round and square bales as well as slurry spreading using low emission trailing shoes. Digger and dump trailer work is also a service they provide as well as tree surgery work carried out by certified operators. They are award winning contractors!
Eoin Ó Muircheartaigh
Ó Muircheartaigh Agri
An Fheothanach, Co.Kerry
Eoin Ó Muircheartaigh from West Kerry runs a beef and sheep farm. He also carries out baled silage, slurry spreading with trailing shoe, a small bit of ploughing and reseeding grassland. From modest beginnings with just one tractor and a baler he has now upsized to employing up to 4 lads in the busy summer months.
Croom, Co. Limerick
Limerick woman Karen O’Donoghue has been working with her father’s Agri Contracting business since she was 16 years old. They do all kinds of work such as precision chop silage, round & square baling, raking, tedding, slurry spreading, dumper hire, wrapping & stacking bales and ploughing & tillage work. Now with baby Clodagh in tow, Karen still remains stone mad for John Deeres!
Kilfenora, Co. Clare
Secondary school teacher, Eoin Collins from Clare is part of Collins Agri, a business his father started in 1994. Alongside his father and three brothers, they specialise in silage, baling, tillage and slurry.
Highland Ground Services
Corr na Móna, Co. Galway
Peadar Seoighe, a sheep shearer and contractor from Galway has been in the contracting business for about 6 years. From lime spreading to topping and spraying rushes, Peadar has built an agri contracting business based upon the size of enterprise in the hills of Corr na Móna along with his competent sheep dog called Lindsey who helps him get the job done!
Peter Farrelly & Pat Farrelly
Kells, Co. Meath
The Farrelly brothers Peter (left) and Pat (right) from Kells in Meath have been in the contracting business for over 40 years. From pit silage to ploughing, sowing seeds to site clearances, they have around 20 people working for them and the hard work never stops!