As part of this week’s Career Focus segment, That’s Farming, speaks to Caroline Hedigan who has carved out a career in agriculture.
Caroline Hedigan is proof that not being born into a farm should not be a barrier to career success in the agricultural field.
However, the Churchtown, north Cork native has farming blood as her uncles, on both sides of her family, are dairy farmers. Caroline’s mother, a milk recorder, is “one of the biggest influences”.
“I was out with my mother on farms in my buggy from when I was six-weeks-old, so my interest developed from day one. My highlight as a child was going to my granny’s and uncles farm for the weekend.”
“My earliest memory would be my uncle Donal teaching me how to feed calves. From there, my interest has just grown,” Caroline told That’s Farming.
IT Tralee and FRS
A striking passion for agriculture prompted the Cork native to further her studies in this discipline. Caroline enrolled at the Institute of Technology Tralee, Co. Kerry and graduated in 2016 with a degree in agricultural science.
“I think in agriculture there is so much to engage in, learn and talk about that naturally it just sparked my interest. There are so many opportunities in the agri-sector. It is one of the best areas to work in, especially if you have an interest.”
After she completed her undergraduate studies, the 23-year-old undertook relief work with FRS Kanturk for six-months.
“I needed to give myself a break after my studies, so I spent time relief milking for different farmers which was a brilliant experience. It was most definitely the best learning experience I have ever gained as there is constant learning which I have taken and applied to other jobs.”
“I spent a good amount of time part-time milk recording for Munster Bovine since I was 16, and from that, I gained knowledge about milk quality and people skills.”
North Cork Creameries
In 2020, Caroline joined North Cork Creameries, a farmer-owned creamery with over 250 milk suppliers, as a sales and milk support graduate intern.
The role she plays is very much customer-focused, encompassing all aspects of agriculture, advisory, agri-business, retail, and customer service, merchandising and sales techniques.
“We have four co-op shops in each of our branches. North Cork aims to provide the best service to our farms, for the best price to make sure our farmers have everything they need and the best advice available to them.
“Typically, time is spent on the counter in the shop interacting with farmers and learning about new products, sorting milk results, and sending results to farmers, carrying out Bord Bia closeouts and working on our computer system updating information and price.
“This is a learning position, so I love that every day I go away with something new, either from a farmer, sales rep, or from a member of a team. Also, I love the variety of work that is available and being able to interact with people daily.”
The role involves many areas, each having their own challenge, but without challenges, there is “no fun and work becomes boring”, according to Caroline.
“In the co-op, the biggest challenge I face is the variety of items we sell and knowing products, along with some of the tasks I am assigned. Covid-19 is also bringing several challenges that create difficulty.”
Furthermore, in the future, Caroline firstly would like to travel to New Zealand and spend some time there working and expanding her knowledge base.
Secondly, she would like to study more to acquire more knowledge of milk quality, selective dry cow therapy, and antibiotic usage.
Women in Ag
“Most of the time, I am treated equal, but sometimes there are instances where people think men know more, and it is challenging meaning women have to prove our capabilities more.”
“I believe today, there is further recognition for women as we are filling in more big sector roles in the industry, and more women are entering the industry.”
“My journey in agriculture is not normal. I didn’t come from a farm, but I love milking cows, working in the ag industry, and furthering my career. I’m lucky I have the best of both worlds, a 9-5 job, but also am farming at weekends and evening milkings.,” Caroline concluded.
Interview conducted by Catherina Cunnane.
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