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‘I had a desire to be a part of one of Ireland’s most exciting industries’

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With his home county being spearheaded as Ireland’s food and drink capital and a haven for artisan food producers,  Denis O’ Sullivan (20) always had this heart set on a career in the growing food and agricultural sector. 

Influenced by his family’s farming heritage, the Whitechurch native began a BSc Hons in Food Marketing and Entrepreneurship (BFME) at  University College Cork (UCC) in 2018, following the completion of his Leaving Certificate. 

His mother’s family were dairy and pig farmers from Riverstick, Co. Cork, while his father grew up on a dairy farm in Whitechurch, Co. Cork.

“Coming from a strong agricultural background, I had first-hand experience of the dairy, beef and agribusiness industry from a young age,” he explained to That’s Farming. 

“From a young age, I always had an appreciation for agriculture. Growing up in the country and surrounded by agriculture further strengthened this appreciation.”

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“My dad’s brothers, Michael and Denis, both farm. While I am not directly involved in the running of the enterprise, I help out when needed.”

“I especially help my 94-year old granduncle who still has beef cattle on his farm,” added Denis, who also worked as a grass measurement technician providing a grass measurement and analysis service to local farmers.

Agri-food industry

Studying agricultural science for his Leaving Certificate, coupled with an interest in sustainable food systems, evolution of supply chains, new product development and marketing of Ireland abroad, made Denis look at agri-food-related careers.

“I was eager to immerse myself in one of Ireland’s most exciting industries.” 

“It never ceases to amaze me how Irish food businesses are sought after for their quality and authentication from over 160 countries worldwide.” 

As well as his farming roots, the main factor which influenced him to choose his current degree programme was the “unique combination” of both science and business modules.

“I thoroughly reviewed the course modules and met up with current and past BFME students to gain a greater understanding of the course before selecting it as my number one choice on my CAO.”

“Being part of the Lidl Trolley Cam television advert in 2017 was also a contributing factor that motivated me to choose my course. The advertisement was a great insight into the food marketing and business industry.” 

Highlight 

An outstanding memory in his college experience so far was when the United States Ambassador to Ireland, Edward F. Crawford, visited the educational institution. 

Denis was asked by UCC’s food business and development department to meet with the ambassador. “I organised a showcase of Cork produce such as Ballyvolane House Bertha’s Revenge Gin, Hegartys Cheese, Whitechurch and Ballymaloe Foods.” 

“It was a great honour to highlight this wonderful produce made in County Cork.” 

As a food marketing and entrepreneurship student, Denis got a taste of the marketing world when he was an organiser and marketing assistant for the press release of the 2020 CUBS conference. 

Career path

Set to complete his undergraduate studies in 2022, the Whitechurch Macra member is currently considering a graduate programme and may complete a master’s degree in the area of agri-food in the future. 

“I also hope to travel abroad if the right opportunity arises to promote Irish produce.” 

“The aim is to move home eventually and work in Ireland as I would find it very hard to leave Whitechurch where I was raised.” 

The 20-year-old hopes to develop “a skill-set that is applicable to attain a job in the fast-paced food industry and working towards exporting Irish produce”.

“The fast-moving sector in Ireland has achieved global success and is vital to the development of our rural communities and regions and is critical to Ireland’s economy.”

“I am very proud and passionate about our produce, and would relish the opportunity to further develop our image on the global stage.” 

“My course provides students with the skill-set to be innovative and game-changers in the food and agri-food industry.” 

“If I could turn back the clock, I wouldn’t change my course choice – I am very happy with my decision”. Denis concluded.

Interview conducted by Catherina Cunnane

To share your story, email – info@thatsfarming.com 

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