Last week I attended an event where there were more than 200 journalists present, including the BBC and Sky News. One of the rumours circulating was that the American Embassy was aware of a significant increase in the use of social media in that particular location. No, it wasn't a high powered meeting of European leaders or some big announcement about the future of the Euro. This event believe it or not took place on a 750 acre farm in Ratheniska, Co. Laois - the Ploughing Championships.
The day I attended there wasn't a wellington in sight. The sun shone and everybody had a smile and a nod.
Some people think the ploughing is for farmers only but let me tell you the world and his wife were there. Yes there were more shirt sleeves than suits and more farm machinery than fancy cars, yes the talk was largely about the good summer and final details of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and there were accents from everywhere, from Leitrim to Cork, from Clare to Dublin. All age groups were out in force and the crowd on that day numbered approximately 100,000.
I spent nearly two hours in the Leader pavilion where I met quite a few start up entrepreneurs and more established businesses that had received some funding from their local Leader company. These men and women were a real inspiration and their 'can do' attitude was a tonic.
To be honest I didn't hear one complaint, not about the economy, the euro or even the politicians, all I heard about were their plans for business and the progress they had already made. When I asked if people were buying, I was told yes - people are buying but I noticed that items were well priced and you felt when you parted with your money, at least you were getting value.
Agriculture and food production is a bit like the weather. There can be grey skies in the morning followed by sunshine in the afternoon. Of course agriculture depends on the weather and one of the reasons for the cautious optimism I noticed was the great summer we just had. Many farmers who were in dire straits during spring with no fodder for their animals now at least know they have some supply for the winter. Not all are in that secure position but some are and others are getting there.
There was also a sense that food production was back to its rightful place after having slipped down the pecking order well behind the pharmaceutical, IT and construction sectors which drove the Celtic Tiger. Farmers were not strutting but there was a confidence in their step.
On a final note, rumours about the US Embassy noting a very significant increase in the use of social media in Co. Laois is a little concerning. It's only a rumour but if it were true that means somebody is watching and is monitoring our every communication - but that's a story for another day.