As part of this week’s Women in Ag segment, Catherina Cunnane speaks to Alisha McCartney (24) about agricultural contracting in Ireland and her plans to become an agricultural engineer.
24-year-old Alisha McCartney has her sights sets on carving out a career as an agricultural engineer.
The Ballinakill, Co. Laois native hails from a calf-to-beef enterprise but is a keen machinery enthusiast and welder.
“I live on a small hobby farm where we buy bull calves when they are 4-5-weeks-old. We rear them and finish them in two years, with over thirty cattle in total,” she told That’s Farming.
“I love the machinery aspect of farming – the bigger, the better when it comes to driving tractors. I get satisfaction from the grunt of an engine and fixing machinery. Also, I am keen to find any excuse to get the welder out.”
Agricultural engineering course
Alisha is pursuing her studies in this field and is studying an Honours Bachelor in agricultural engineering at Tralee Institute of Technology.
After completing her Leaving Certificate, she completed a level 5 in engineering technology and began her current degree programme, which she will graduate from next year.
“I picked this course because I have always been passionate about tractors and machinery but never had the opportunity to get near them. I was hoping to finally get that experience and get into the industry by completing this course.”
As part of her studies, she completed a 12-week placement at Eardly Agri Services in Co. Kilkenny.
“I was in my element, finally getting to work with tractors and other machinery. This gave me the confidence not to give up on my passion. I am eternally grateful to the boss, Michael Eardly, for giving me that opportunity.”
Agricultural contracting in Ireland
Her placement module paved the way for other opportunities securing employment with agricultural contracting firms across Ireland. During the summer months, she drives for Bourkes Contracting, Roscrea and assists Drapers Agri, Roscrea.
Her responsibilities can vary from silage making duties to slurry and muck spreading, repairs and welding.
“I have always been interested in agricultural contracting. I can tell from the sound of a tractor passing by what make it is.”
“For as long as I can recall, I have been mechanically minded. I have gone from fixing bikes to buying in pit bikes, scramblers and quads and repairing them. Most recently, I have moved onto bigger machines and am currently working on restoring old square baler.”
“I’ve had an obsession with tractors all my life, but I struggled to secure a job in agricultural contracting. It is hard to believe I have had to drive 50 minutes to a job to get a tractor driver/ machinery operator position. People are surprised to see me driving a tractor.”
“I believe the gender divide still exists in some capacity in the agricultural sector. Some people have laughed at me, which really knocked me down. Looking back on it now, I should not have let others knock my confidence.”
Fuelled with a renewed level of confidence, Alisha is keen to shed light on women in agricultural contracting to increase female participation.
To do so, she has created a YouTube channel, where she posts a variety of machinery-related content regularly. In the coming weeks, she intends to join forces with other females in the sector.
“I want to show that women can operate tractors and machinery just as good as men. Also, I want to expand my channel’s reach, as I plan to release footage of other female drivers in the coming weeks.”
Looking ahead, Alisha will continue chasing her passion and is keen to put her knowledge and welding skills “to the test”.
She hopes to secure employment in a tractor garage or in a fabrication-based position when she completes her undergraduate degree. Besides, the 24-year-old intends to continue farming the land and is keen to continue working in the agricultural contracting field.
“I am quite a shy person, with a good mind for fixing things and a good eye for detail. Being involved in agriculture lets me use these skills to improve the industry by designing and fixing machinery, and I embrace every challenge that comes my way.” Alisha concluded.
View Alisha’s YouTube channel by clicking here.
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