Kerry Suckler Farmer: Karen Moynihan
That’s Farming editor, Catherina Cunnane, in conversation with Kerry suckler farmer, Karen Moynihan, Co Kerry in this week’s women in ag series. We discuss her suckler farming roots, her reignited passion for farming, her social media content and beloved Massey Ferguson 135.
“My grandfather bought the farm here in Kilcummin in 1969 after moving back home from London.
It was initially a dairy farm but moved to sucklers in the late 80s, and we have continued since then.
My dad took over the farm from my grandfather, and I started working on the farm with him three years ago.
When I was very young, I was interested in the farm and would walk through the field down to the shed to see my grandfather on Saturday mornings.
He always told the story of how he would hear me coming before he could see me because the grass was taller than me.
Kerry suckler farmer
I started working on the farm three years ago and have a full-time job, so the farm is only part-time. I moved back home with work and built a house and felt it was only natural that I worked on the farm.
My dad had an accident eight years ago, which has left him paralysed from the chest down.
Neighbours had been helping on the farm for a few years to keep it going, and I just decided to give it a go when I moved back.
When I first started, I thought I would just be bringing in bales and feeding throughout the winter, but it has quickly progressed from there.
I now do all the day-to-day work on the farm and undertake tasks such as feeding, cleaning, fencing, dosing, dehorning and castration.
I had an interest in farming when I was young but lost interest in my teens and 20s. My parents have four daughters, so farming was never really encouraged in our house.
My dad did all the work with the help of my grandfather, but I was always the most likely of the four girls to go into farming.
I did not complete any formal agricultural degree courses; I just learned everything from my dad.
Our suckler farm is in Kilcummin, Co. Kerry. We have not had to buy any animal onto the farm in decades; we have mainly Simmental cows, but also Angus, Charolais and Limousin.
I do all the physical work and the day-to-day running of the farm, and my dad is the brains of the operation.
Juggling a job and farming
Furthermore, I also work as an area manager for ALDI. I am lucky that my full-time job is quite flexible in the sense that I can choose my days off from week to week, but I generally do all the work in the evenings.
Last winter, I moved to one feed a day as the early mornings and late evenings on top of a full-time job was tough work.
The one feed a day worked really well. I do all of the bigger jobs on my days off. I think it is really important to get out in the fresh air in the evenings.
My job can be very busy at times, and farming allows me to have time to myself and clear my head after a tough day.
I have no plans to change anything in particular in the future. My career is very important to me, so I plan to continue to work full-time and farm part-time.
We have made many improvements to the farm in recent years, including making it more accessible for my dad, and we plan to continue to improve the farm as we go along.
Having a suckler farm is very rewarding as you see a newborn calf grow and become a cow with her very own calf.
We have three generations of Simmentals on the farm in the form of a grandmother, mother, and daughter), and all three of them look so alike and have the same personality; it is lovely to see.
Finding enough time to do everything is challenging. It is always nice when the weather is good in the summer, walking through the fields and watching our progeny’s progress.
I showcase the farm on my TikTok – K_Moy – and Instagram – Karenmoynihanfarm – accounts which I set up in recent years.
All my content is farm-related. A lot of my social media posts involve the Massey 135 as it is the only tractor I have. You will not find me doing any dances on TikTok.
I aim my content at farmers, really, but I just like to show whoever is interested what I do on the farm and how I do it.
There is nothing glamorous about how I farm, and it involves a lot of hardship. I think people like to see the reality of it on social media. Massey Ferguson is my favourite brand just because of the 135.
Women in ag
I am and am not treated the same as my male counterparts. More and more women are getting involved in agriculture which is great to see.
However, I think women are still seen as having a smaller part to play on the farm; I think they are often seen as helping the men on the farm.
Furthermore, I think people, both men and women, are shocked when they hear I am farming as it is just not the norm.
What I want to show on my social media pages is that women can work a farm just the same as a man can.
I may not be as physically strong as a man, but I will always find a way to get the job done.
My dad is the epitome of “where there is a will, there is a way”. He also got some idea or workaround to make things easier for both of us on the farm, and it just proves that it is not all about the brawn.
I have met some incredibly supportive people on my farming journey over the past three years.
I do not think women in agriculture are getting the recognition they deserve at farm and industry level.
Furthermore, I think it is like everything else; it needs to start from a young age, and occupations should not be dictated by gender.
Male farmers, contractors, etc., must see the value in having women in the workplace. This will, in turn, give women the confidence to either apply for jobs in agriculture or go into the family business.
It really is important to break down the current social norms, but we will only do that by us women becoming more involved and not shying away from it.
Agriculture is not for everyone, and that goes for men and women, but if this is the lifestyle you are interested in and feel you would be happy in, then do not allow the fact that it is a male-dominated environment to put you off.
Farming can be all-consuming, and socially, I feel it is accepted that a man can be a farmer, and that is what he does.
I am not saying that that is all he does or can do, but I feel there is less pressure on a man to do other things outside of the farm.
However, as a woman, there is still the societal pressure to be a good partner, be a good homemaker, be a good daughter and be a good friend.
The fact that women must also prove they can farm as well as a man then adds even more pressure.
For me, it is difficult at times to find the balance as all of those things are very important to me, and, therefore, I try to give them time, but the farm often wins out.
Therefore, I think farmers, both male and female, will generally be surrounded by very supportive people who understand that it is more than just a job for us.
Someone once told me, “Never doubt yourself because there’s plenty of people out there doing it for you”, and I think it is true.
I have always had an ambition either in sport, my career and just life in general, to prove myself and show people what I can do.
All in all, I am naturally quite a shy person, so I leave my actions to do the talking.
I went from having almost no involvement in the farm for 20 years to doing almost everything on the farm over the past 3 years.
It has been a very steep learning curve, and I am still learning every day, but I enjoy what I do every day.”
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