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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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25-year-old hairdresser’s love of the land and livestock blossoming during lockdown

In this week’s Women in Ag segment, Ashleigh Hall, a qualified hairdresser, outlines how her passion for farming is blooming during lockdown.

The Covid-19 pandemic and its ensuing lockdown restrictive measures have enabled Ashleigh Hall, a 25-year-old hairdresser, to develop her passion for agriculture.

With personal service providers, including hair salons shut, the fifth-generation farmer is now spending more time on the family farm in Dundrum, Newcastle, County Down,

Although farming is a strong family tradition, she resided in a town until 2013, when her parents decided to embrace rural living. They moved to a 66-acre farm, that her father, Jimmy, inherited following his father’s passing.

The farm was initially passed onto Ashleigh’s grandfather, Jim Hall, by his uncle, Whitfield Thompson, and he continued to operate a sheep and arable enterprise up until his later years.

“My grandfather’s health started to deteriorate. He could no longer farm, which meant everything was sold, and the land was rented out,” she told That’s Farming.

“When my grandfather passed away in 2011, the land was divided between family members. My dad inherited the yard and 66-acres. In 2013, my parents decided to sell up and move to the farm where we lived in a caravan for 18 months. That was fun.”

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Humble beginnings

In late 2014, the family began their farming venture on by purchasing old machinery and twenty ewes to establish a sheep enterprise. Meadow Brook Farm, operated by Ashleigh, her parents, Jimmy and Debbie, and older brother, Ethan has expanded in recent years.

The farm is now home to a flock of 70 commercial ewes and a beef enterprise. Ewes are served by a Texel, Kerryhill or Hampshire ram and lamb from the end of February through to April.

The family has also established a calf-to-beef enterprise, bucket-rearing Belgium Blue and Angus which these finish as steers. Most recently, they began rearing suckler-bred heifer calves, mainly Belgian Blues and Charolais-type, which they hope to breed next year.

“We also grow our own barley and silage. We keep as much as we need to feed our livestock, selling surplus quantities. My responsibilities on the farm are feeding, looking after animals, and just helping out with any all types of farm maintenance and general husbandry duties.”

“The thing I enjoy most about farming is being outdoors and being kept busy all the time. I also really enjoy being around animals and caring for them. I get great satisfaction from nursing sick animals and bringing them back to full health.”

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Farming during lockdown

The young farmer provides an insight into her daily life on the sheep and beef enterprise on an Instagram page, that she created during the first phase of lockdown restrictive measures.

Immersing herself in farm life in recent months has made her discover that working with animals is an interest she would like to pursue long-term.

“Due to Covid-19, I have been on furlough for most of the year, which has given me loads of time to spend on the farm. During my final year of school, I participated in a week’s work experience in a hair salon which went on to become my full-time career.”

“I studied hairdressing, and once we moved to the countryside, I continued my career in hairdressing and helped on the farm. I greatly enjoy farm life, and it has given me thoughts for a career change.” Ashleigh added.

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A love of the land

Succeeding in the agricultural field requires practical experience, knowledge, courage, determination, motivation, hard graft, and passion, as the 25-year-old knows all too well.

Her parents have instilled a simple philosophy in her: you can do anything you want in life, words which are the driving force behind her endeavours.

“I was taught that women can ride dirt bikes, chop logs, and hang shelves and men can do laundry and hoovering. Also, I have always been a girl who believes that women can work just as hard as men can in any industry. I do not think that people see farming as a male-only industry anymore.”

“Life is too short to wait around and you never know where taking one step might lead to. Ideally, I would love to be a full-time farmer; however, currently, the farm would not provide a steady enough income.”

“Hopefully, in the future, as we expand the farm, this could be an option. I am forever grateful that I got the chance to become a farmer.” Ashleigh Hall concluded.


Follow Ashleigh’s Instagram account by clicking here.

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