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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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Tips: Completing a practical learning period for your Green Cert

A practical learning period (PLP) is the cornerstone of all agricultural courses provided by Teagasc in conjunction with various universities and ITs nationwide.

Students complete placement with an approved host farmer as part of their agriculture studies with a view to learning new skills and applying knowledge and skills they are learning through college to real-work situations.

Moreover, it aims to help students understand and apply health and safety protocols, work independently and obtain new learning and life experience.

For many, as Dr Anne Marie Butler, Head of Teagasc Education, outlined, it can be a daunting experience, but it is important to “take your time and surround yourself with those who can assist you and to enjoy the experience”.


Speaking during a recent webinar on the Teagasc Practical Learning Period (PLP) hosted by the state agency and one of its students, Ellen Doherty, she encouraged students to work with their placement officer and college staff, to discuss with their parents/guardians and to enjoy the new experience and the opportunities it offers.

She explained: “Placement is really important as for the majority of students it will be the first time that they will get to apply the skills and experience that they have learned in their college on-farm.”

“Many may not have been on other farms, and for those from a non-farming background, it can be their first experience.”

“So, it is a great opportunity to develop new skills, to practice your skills and to develop new friendships, which I think is a very important part of it.”

“We have a lot of students who go back to their host farmers and attend weddings and family events,” she added.

Level 5 certificate in agriculture students will commence placements in March 2023, when they will complete an 8-week period on-farm. The PLP component carries 15 credits out of a total 120 that are required to complete a Green Certificate.

Tips from farmer 

Pat Dillon, host farmer, featured in the webinar and provided the following information:

  • Farmer expects honesty of effort and time-keeping;
  • Let the host farmer know what you, as a student, can and cannot do;
  • Students are not expected to be the finished article – if they cannot perform a certain task, let the farmer know;
  • Interview “very important” before placement – this sets out the terms and conditions of your placement;
  • Let the farmer know what you want out of placement – skills you want to develop and improve on and your weaknesses;
  • Take little and often approach when filling out diary;
  • Ask lots of questions of your host farmer;
  • Ensure that you are not just filling in diary; know why you are performing the action – why you are vaccinating cattle, why you are turning cattle out to pastures today, ect;
  • The more you put into the diary, the more you get out of it.
Tips from placement officer 

John O’Connor, placement officer at Kildaton Ag College, added:

  • Lots of preparation involved;
  • Meets all students in September/October and talk to them;
  • Students fill out placement request form – age, placement type of their preference, and background;
  • Practical sessions on-farm identifies a student’s strong and weak points;
  • Complete training – quads and manual handling and other;
  • Sometimes, the farm they desire may not be available within a 15-20km radius;
  • Emails issue in late January with details of farm;
  • Iron out accommodation (if applies), logistics, pay, ect;
  • Interview is “vital” – Student meets host farmer up to 4 weeks before they are due to commence placement component of course;
  • During interview, they will see the farm, meet the family, set out terms and conditions – start and finish times, responsibilities, and pay – and inform farmers of their strengths and weaknesses.

Read our Student Focus segment.

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