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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnanehttps://www.thatsfarming.com/
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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12 inspirational figures flying the women in ag flag

The National Rural Network (NRN) has released a new booklet featuring 12 women from across the country who each demonstrate “the strength, entrepreneurial spirit and courage of women engaged in farming and the broader world of agriculture”.

According to Associate Professor at the University of Galway, Dr Maura Farrell, project lead, “embracing opportunities and overcoming challenges is exactly what women in agriculture are currently doing”.

“This became obvious to the NRN team when interviewing key women in a variety of farming enterprises and agricultural work, for this publication,” she explained.

She said the individuals featured within provide excellent examples of how women are “increasingly” at the fore of Irish agriculture and how they have grasped the opportunities available and pushed ahead to create successful enterprises and careers.

Dr Farrell added that historically, women in Irish agriculture have “rarely” played a leading role and said that “in many respects, the majority never wanted to lead, but to support – to support their fathers, husbands, brothers or just their family farm in general.”

“Over the years, the work carried out by women on farms ranged from general farm responsibilities and financial accounts to family care duties.”

“In recent years, however, women have come out of the shadows in agriculture and currently lead in areas of farming, farm diversification and innovative practices.”

On foot of this, it is her belief that it is “imperative” that women in agriculture are kept on the policy agenda and targeted for supports so “they can play a key role in overcoming the challenges in agriculture and embracing the opportunities that lie ahead”.

The book, was funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, through its Rural Development Programme 2014-2022 and Niamh McGuinness, Dr Shane Conway and Daniel Bennett were among those who worked alongside Dr Farrell.

Women in agriculture in Ireland

The booklet features:

  • Aisling Molloy – Future Beef Programme Advisor with Teagasc, while farming a family-run suckler and tillage enterprise in Co Offaly. Molloy previously provided us with ten tips for drystock farmers to maximise profits.
  • Anne Marie Feighery – Feighery’s Farm Beetroot Juice produces beetroot juice using pesticide-free beetroot grown by her father and brothers on their Offaly-based family farm. Read her profile on That’s Farming;
  • Breda Maher – Cooleeney Cheese – Working alongside her husband, Breda has been producing cheese from the family’s herd of pedigree Friesians in Thurles, Co Tipperary, since 1986;
  • Dr Edna Curley – Edna grew up on her family farm in Co Offaly and completed her Green Cert at Mountbellew Agricultural College, before attending Kildalton Agriculture College, SETU Waterford and UCD, amassing an undergraduate degree, masters degree at PhD, all in the field of agricultural science. Following a six-year stint working in NUIG, she returned to Mountbellew Agricultural College, almost twenty years later, as its principal. Dr Curley is the current chair of the Women in Agriculture Stakeholders Group.
  • Jackie Whelan Fagan – Jackie is reportedly the first female regional executive for the IFA, a position which she has held for over two years, covering Kildare, Wexford and Water. She grew up in the countryside of Co Kildare but was not directly engaged in farming at the time. She has completed a Masters (Ag) in environmental resource management at UCD and now resides in Co Wicklow on her husband’s suckler and sheep family farm;
  • Karen Moynihan – Karen, a Kerry-based suckler farmer and area manager for ALDI, began farming alongside her father, Jerry, in 2019 after a work accident left him paralysed from the chest down. She had an interest in farming in her earlier years but says she “lost all interest when I went to college”. She remained in Cork after university and later availed of a work promotion opportunity to move back home. It was then that her interest in farming “resurfaced”. Read her interview on That’s Farming;
  • Kylie Magner – Magners Farm Organic Eggs – Kylie, who originally hails from Australia, established the farm’s egg brand in 2017, alongside her husband, Billy. The organic pasture range eggs are all gathered, graded and packed by hand on the family’s farm, which is Irish Organic Association-approved in Co Tipperary;
  • Margaret Farrelly – Margaret’s Eggs – In 1987, Margaret began selling free-range eggs from her husband’s dairy farm in her local area of Mullagh, Co Cavan. Her journey in agriculture began by meeting her husband, Leo, during her 12-year banking career. Despite not hailing from a farming background herself, over three decades, she has turned a small supplement to the farm’s income into Ireland’s largest free-range egg producer;
  • Martina Calvey – Achill Mountain Lamb – The Calvey family are a legacy of innovation, farming on Achill Island, off the coast of Mayo, for over 150 years. Following a thirty-year teaching career, Martina returned to her home in Achill Island, where her family’s sheep farm and business, Calvey’s Achill Mountain Lamb, is based. She works alongside her siblings and father, running the farm and business and farming in her own right with her own farm and herd number;
  • Martina Harrington – Beef specialist at Teagasc – Martina grew up on her family farm in Co Offaly, and completed a BSc of agricultural science and a masters in rural environmental conversation management in UCD. She spent a short period in a private agricultural firm before joining Teagasc, initially as a REPS planner, in 2000. She now works as a beef specialist at the state agency and also manages its Future Beef Programme. In a previous article, we spoke to her about cattle B&Bs;
  • Moira Hart – Wexford Lavender Farm – Hart established the country’s first dedicated lavender farm in 2014 and has developed the enterprise into an educational tourism attraction, which functions alongside the working farm. She discovered the concept of lavender farms during her travels and saw the potential for one in Ireland, specifically in her home of sunny Wexford;
  • Suzanna Crampton – Zwartbles Ireland – Suzanna is the director of Zwartbles Ireland, a company which produces blankets from the wool of her rare Zwartbles sheep, which she farms in Co Kilkenny. Growing up, she split her time between her parents in New York and her maternal grandparents and their farm in Bennetsbridge, Co Kilkenny, where she now farms. She returned to Ireland in 1997 to take over the family farm following her grandmother’s passing, and she began her regenerating part of the enterprise, 12 idle acres, as the rest was rented out to farmers, with a flock of Suffolk sheep.

You can view the booklet via this link.

See our dedicated weekly women in ag series.

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