The Hastings’ family farm was at the height of the lambing and calving season when schools and colleges shut their doors on March 12th in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
This created an opportunity for teachers, Miriam (25) and Rachel (23), to become more involved in the suckler and sheep farm with their parents.
Farming has made the sisters more physically active but has also provided a sense of normality and responsibility.
Miriam is currently a primary school teacher in Scoil Bhríde Edenderry after completing her Bachelor of Education in Mary Immaculate College Limerick; she is currently undertaking her Masters in DCU and completed her green certificate earlier this year.
Rachel is at the final stages of qualifying as a home economics teacher; she is currently undertaking her Post-Masters of Education of Home Economics in St Angela’s College, Sligo, which will be completed at the beginning of May; she hopes to obtain her green certificate in the future.
Keeping up with the Hastings
Their increased activity on-farm prompted the Ballyforan, Co. Galway-based duo to create their Instagram account,Keeping up with the Hastings.
“We decided to start our Instagram page with our first post about ‘pausing to applaud our frontline staff’.” the duo explained to Catherina Cunnane, editor of That’s Farming.
“A local business, EasyFix, inspired us to fill our newsfeed with positivity. We feel blessed to be kept occupied by farming in these uncertain times.”
The sisters share content daily, with a view to providing followers with entertainment and showcasing the “lighter side” of farming.
“Another aim of our page is to promote the positive aspects of farming and how it can be an enjoyable career.”
“We, of course, post farming photos, however, we also share content from nature walks, charity work we are involved in, adventures and our new vegetable garden – the list goes on and the list will be added to.”
Suckler and sheep farming
The family run pedigree Charolais and Limousin and commercial breeding females as part of a spring and autumn-calving system.
A Charollais ram dominates the pastures with their commercial sheep flock, which begin lambing in late February.
Their responsibilities include maintaining good animal husbandry practices, monitoring and tending to the herd and flock and administration duties when required.
“Overall, our responsibilities change from day-to-day. However, we are planting, preparing the soil and researching best practices for our new vegetable garden.”
“Farmers are not often getting paid for their high-quality produce. Hopefully, a change will occur soon, but this probably won’t be in the near future.”
“We enjoy the routine, the fresh outdoors, the life skills and flexible hours. Farming is fantastic for our physical and mental health and no day is the same.”
Women in ag
The teachers are of the opinion that media is playing a role in raising the profile of women in agriculture, but they insisted that stigma remains.
“There is still discrimination against female farmers. It depends on the individual and whether they know us or not.”
“Our local agri suppliers and our contractors treat us equally to men, however, some places you go they think women cannot do the things men do.”
“We don’t find it challenging as we have been doing it all our lives and have grown up with it. We know about the challenges attached to it and have learnt how to overcome them.” added the South Roscommon Macra members.
They admitted that the issue is not only limited to encouraging women into the sector, but also young people, because of the “little turnover and long hours” associated with farming.
In order to overcome this, the benefits of farming need to be highlighted to portray it as an attractive lifestyle, the sisters added.
“Farming is a great way to bring up children, to grow your own produce and to live a healthier lifestyle out in the fresh air.”
Miriam and Rachel will continue to assist in their family enterprise by improving farm practices, breeding livestock, farm safety, developing/improving biodiversity and sustainable environment practices.
“We are farmer’s daughters, two members of the four-member team, who all work well together to maintain the efficient running of our family farm.”
“As sisters, we work well as a team and we have overcome many challenges together.” the duo concluded.
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