This week, we interviewed Ronan O’Connor, an area development officer at ICMSA, as part of our Career Focus segment.
Ronan O’Connor holds the position of ICMSA area development officer, and also assists his father, Rory, with the running of the family’s dairy enterprise.
The Clonmel Co. Tipperary native, a seventh-generation dairy farmer, graduated from Kildalton Agricultural College in 2018 with a level 6 in agriculture.
He enrolled in the course in 2016 and completed a three-month placement in his first year on a dairy farm. For the second year, he undertook a three-month home farm placement.
“I enjoyed these placements as I was introduced to so many great ideas while gaining practical experience.” Ronan O’Connor told That’s Farming.
“I have never doubted the decision to pick Kildalton College and found it excellently run and convenient location-wise.”
Ronan began his career as an area development officer with Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association in November 2019.
Before moving to fill these shoes, Ronan worked with a local tillage farmer for two years to further his experience in the sector.
“I enjoyed the tillage farming experience as it was all new to me, coming from a dairy background. It was after that I moved on to work in a parts department of a local commercial vehicle main dealership.”
Ronan then worked in the commercial motor industry for a short period before returning to the agricultural field.
“It just wasn’t for me and, luckily, I worked that out relatively quickly. After giving it a year, I couldn’t ignore the ‘call of the farming’ anymore.
”I decided to go back to working in the agri-sector and then started with ICMSA.”
Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association
The ICMSA is a 16,000-strong farm organisation with a particular emphasis on the welfare and interests of family dairy farms.
The Tipperary man’s responsibilities include maintaining a solid membership in his areas, helping members with problems, and reassuring members with policy information. Ronan covers the Carlow, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, Tipperary, Waterford, Wexford and Wicklow areas.
“I have a very keen interest in agriculture and think the agri-industry has plenty of potential going forward in traditional roles of primary food production and fast emerging sectors like bio and renewable energy.”
“I like problem-solving meeting new people, lobbying issues and organising meetings. No two days are ever the same.”
Covid-19 work arrangements
Like many others, Ronan has had to adapt to new working arrangements in response to Covid-19 restrictions. Before the Covid pandemic struck, he primarily travelled, covering the vast area of the east and south-east.
“I have to actively seek new members while servicing the thousands of existing members and helping daily with any problems those members have.”
“There is also a non-stop roster of meetings, events, and seminars to keep abreast of developments that impact our membership. In fairness, there’s a lot to be doing!”
That’s Farming asked Ronan why farmers should consider joining the growing organisation.
“There has to be a voice for family dairy farms that will defend their right to a decent income, while understanding that modern commercial farming has to be compatible with climate change and scientifically proved standards of sustainability.”
“ICMSA is the best-positioned organisation on this and grasp that this is going to be the dual approach going forward.”
“How do we commercially produce milk and beef in an environmentally sustainable fashion and how do we show the other parts of the food-supply chain that farmers cannot – and should not – pay for the transition to low emission production on their own. Everyone is going to have to contribute – including consumers”
Young Farmer Group
Furthermore, Ronan is currently working on establishing a Young Farmer Group. Over recent few months, he has put a lot of work into this within his home district of south Tipperary, the first of what will, hopefully, be a network.
“This would bring the young farmers within a given community together in a way where they can give each other support and exchange views.”
“This is very important as farming can be an isolated job at times, and it would help young farmers to meet other young farmers and give their occupations that vital social dimension.”
“I like working with farmers because – as a general rule – they are honest, decent people that work very hard for a not always proportionate financial end-result.”
“As a farmer’s son myself, I have a great relationship with farmers. I think I understand the industry to a decent depth.” Ronan, O’Connor concluded.
To find out more about the ICMSA, click here.
Interview conducted by Catherina Cunnane.
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