Stories of Brave – Ger Leahy
Ger Leahy, Tillage Farmer, Newtownadam Farm Ltd., Co Tipperary
This is the first in a series of real-life stories, highlighting Brave business leaders in Ireland who have shown strength and courage in the course of their day to day in growing their business. These leaders show strength and courage every day, through dedication, innovation and commitment to their business survival.
Irish agriculture is one industry where dedication, commitment, innovation and bravery are the absolute keys to success. Battling weather, fluctuating markets and economic shocks require a strength and courage few outside the business could fathom.
A man who knows all about this is Ger Leahy from Co Tipperary. One of Ireland’s leading tillage farmers, Ger has been working Newtownadam Farm for over 20 years having inherited it from his father in 2000. With just one other full-time employee and a small number of seasonal workers, Ger has taken what was a small tillage farm and turned it into one of the country’s largest, producing barley, oats, wheat and rape seed each year. He supplies Glanbia, Dairygold, Flahavan’s among other major accounts.
Growth at that level requires vision and Ger focussed on detailed business planning and financing to realise his plans to build the farm into what it is today. His ambition required bravely taking risks and stepping outside his comfort zone as he diversified into new areas of tillage, invested in large storage facilities to control market prices for his crops and expanded into straw supply and management. But like many farmers Ger’s business is heavily dependent on the weather and tough conditions meant that 2019 was a difficult year.
“Last year we weren’t able to sow as many cereals due to intense rainfall in the autumn. This then meant that the winter acreage was reduced and subsequently our crops were delayed. As a result, we had to work longer hours on the good days, sometimes working up to 16 hours a day to make sure we were ploughing and sowing enough to get us through the season. In contrast to this, we’ve had very little rainfall this summer, which presents different challenges such as crops not growing at all, so it can go from one extreme to the other very quickly. You never know what you are going to get with farming so it’s important to keep agile for your team and staying on top of cashflow and projections at all times. Although we have a large farm, you do still worry about what may come down the tracks and with people employed on the farm, you feel the responsibility for them and their families, only adding to the pressure to survive.”
At the start of this year it looked as though Brexit would be the biggest factor to deal with in 2020, but by spring it was clear that Covid-19 was going to have a huge impact on every business in the country and that agriculture would not be immune.
However, Ger is resolute that farming can’t stop, even in the face of a global pandemic and quickly put measures in place to ensure that it would be, as much as possible, business as usual.
“We coped throughout the pandemic because we acted quickly to embed hygiene into every aspect of our business; as most of our work like ploughing, sowing, spraying and spreading fertiliser is carried out by machines, we are able to do all those tasks without any close contact. We haven’t needed to change our operation, simply ensure hygiene and safety is rooted in every part of the farm.”
The future looks positive for Ger’s business and his working closely with co-ops and merchants has meant that while supply chains were affected, orders were placed in good time and any disruption was identified quickly and managed with the result that he has been able to ensure that that future contracts for 2020 have been assured.
“The full impact of the virus on the tillage sector is hard to know but already we have seen a major malting company trying to reduce their malting contacts which were in place with farmers supplying them malting barley. Thankfully in our area, Dairygold and Glanbia have committed to take all contracted malting barley for this harvest. As the price we get in Ireland for our grain is dictated by world prices, supply and demand are the biggest factors.”
For the rest of the year Ger is concentrating on a successful harvest season and continuing to make plans to further develop his farm and grow his business, getting up and out and on to the land come rain or shine every single morning.
AIB is backing farmers by providing cashflow solutions tailored to your farming needs. For further information, visit www.aib.ie/backingbrave.
To support you and your farm we have a dedicated Agri Advisor Team based all around the country. Our team come from farming backgrounds, so they know what it takes to run your business and have a wealth of experience when looking at farm finance. At AIB we’re backing brave and we’re backing Irish farmers. https://business.aib.ie/my-business-is/agri-business.
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