Leah Armitage is a fourth-generation farmer and agricultural science student residing in Dalystown, outside Mullingar, Co. Westmeath.
Farming is a longstanding tradition on both sides of the 19-year-old’s family. The holding that the family farm, Carrick Lodge Mullingar, was purchased by her great-grandfather in the 1930s.
“My earliest farming memories revolve around being besotted by baby lambs, as we’d have a few each year.”
“I remember I’d have them trained to follow me anywhere around the yard. Since then, I have always had a great interest in sheep and the lambing season.”
“No matter what, I’d prioritise going out to help my dad on the farm to feed the cattle with him over starting homework any day. I would always go out to the farm as soon as I got home from school during the lambing season and I’d tend to any of the ewes lambing,”
Leah, her father John, mother Catherine and older sisters, Jean and Rebecca (a newly qualified vet), and younger sister, Nicole, collectively run Deerpark Farm.
The Westmeath-based farm is a mixture enterprise by nature with sucklers, sheep and tillage.
The family farm an array of Limousin, Belgian Blue, Hereford, Charolais, Angus and Parthenaise cattle. “We have 42 cattle and operate a year-round calving season. We creep feed our calves from nearly one-month-old and sell them as weanlings when they are 400kg+.”
Also, the family grow up to 7-acres of spring barley each year. Their 60-strong ewe flock comprises Texels and Suffolks with two rams, a Belclare and a Charollais, also dominating the pastures.
“We tend to put our rams out with ewes during the middle of October, so they are lambing in the middle of March. We sell most of our lambs in Tullamore Mart at 50kg.”
“For me, the lambing season always has been and always will be my favourite aspect of farming life. It is also the most difficult part.”
“Trying to balance studying, horses and a social life can get very overwhelming. There can be a lot of pressure to have everything on the farm sorted first before you go anywhere or do anything else. But I’m lucky enough to have my horse which allows me some time away from farm work.”
Leah has an added another string to her bow his year, having commenced her third-level studies.
She enrolled in Waterford Institute of Technology’s (WIT) agricultural science degree programme in September, immediately after her Leaving Certificate.
The course involves an in-depth study of science, food, agriculture, the environment, business, and quality assurance to prepare candidates for a career in areas of agricultural science and agri-business.
“I always knew I wanted to do something agricultural-related or with animals. I heard of what a great ag science course WIT provides.”
“With the Covid-19 situation, I count myself lucky to have met most of my lectures and my lab group at WIT. It is lovely to have had the opportunity to meet them in person. Everyone is really friendly and helpful.”
“I love the course so far, and I am looking forward to pursuing the practical side of the course and great work placement opportunities in year three.”
“I just knew it was what I wanted to do, and I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else at this moment.”
Set to graduate in 2024, Leah relishes the idea of pursuing a career in agri-business or education or furthering her studies.
“My ultimate goal is to have an ag science and veterinary degree and running my own farm set up along with pursuing my equine interests.”
“Follow your dreams, set goals for yourself, work hard to achieve them and don’t let anything stop you – that is my motto.”
“Coming from an agricultural background has been the best thing ever. All the laughs and memories I’ve had mainly come from time spent outside and on-farm, I’m grateful for it,” Leah concluded.