As a farmer’s only daughter, Grace Roche – who hails from outside Portumna in Co. Galway – has been immersed in farming life from a young age.
She grew up on a mixed suckler, sheep and goat farm along with her three brothers and spent a number of years working in the horse racing industry across Ireland, the UK, the US and France.
“I always helped out on the family farm up until the point that I furthered my studies,” Grace told Catherina Cunnane – That’s Farming.
The Galway native graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in New Media and English from University of Limerick in 2009.
She studied a Diploma in Digital Marketing through the Internet Association of Ireland shortly afterwards and secured a number of business development and marketing internships.
She joined Momentum in Co. Leitrim as an intern and is now Head of EU Projects at the firm which offers consulting and marketing services including business planning and development, SME growth, sectoral training/mentoring and graphic design.
Grace combined this extensive marketing experience with her farming background - growing up on a farm and running a dairy enterprise with Raymond and his parents - to establish her own award-winning business.
She was attending the National Ploughing Championships in 2013 with Raymond – her husband - when she experienced her lightbulb moment.
“It all started as a bit of a running joke with my husband – I used to ask him for pink or purple overalls for my birthday and other occasions but he could never get them.”
Not one to rest on her laurels, Grace conducted market research over a number of years and liaised with companies in the EU in order to design and manufacture her own Pretty Bird range.
Pretty Bird – an outdoor workwear specialist designed for women – was launched close to two years ago.“Pretty Bird was born out of frustration; 60% of our customers are women who work in agriculture and a further 20% of our customers are women involved in landscaping and gardening.”
“An additional 10% of our customers are involved in trade and the remaining 10% are outdoors enthusiasts,” Grace said as she revealed that the products have a wide age profile.
Grace has retained her role at Momentum and runs Pretty Bird in Co. Leitrim with her Raymond – a part-time farmer and an IT Manager.
It has grown from strength-to-strength since its foundation due to its successful online shop and presence at various agricultural and horticultural events including National Ploughing Championships, Bloom and Tullamore Show.
“I get great satisfaction when someone stumbles across our website, purchases an item and they get in touch to provide feedback.”
“It has been a game-changer for a life of women – we have built a nice community around our business.” She added.
[Crazy Farmer's Wife's product are available to purchase through Pretty Bird]
Women in Ag
Being a female in agriculture and a female in the equine sector has never been an issue for Grace.
“I worked in various racing yards and was often granted more responsibility than my male counterparts when it came to the welfare of the horses.”
“My mother-in-law Margaret and I are the primary calf rearers on the farm – you will find that is the case on a lot of enterprises throughout the country.”
The Galway native believes that media coverage and the establishment of women in farming groups have helped to promote women in agriculture.
“Prior to this, the person who was visible at the mart as the face of farming was primarily the man – I think that is changing.”
“Women have always been farming – my mum looked after hundreds of sheep – lambing and feeding them - when she was my age.”
Going forward, Grace will continue to farm and grow her own business whilst continuing to work at Momentum.
Pretty Bird’s main aim going forward is to form additional strategic partnerships with other companies in the UK and Ireland and to diversify its product offering.
“We want to keep building our customer base and we are hopeful that there are lots of different ways that the business can expand.”
In terms of the family enterprise, Grace outlined that there is an opportunity for her and her husband to invest more in the home farm; the duo has been focusing on running a calf-to-beef enterprise on a separate holding in recent years.
“There possibly will be the need to diversify our system, because Raymond and I work full-time.”
“A time of change is definitely coming. With every generation, there is always evolution on a farm, so we will see what will happen in the coming years.”
“Next plans and a new era are on the horizon – we also look forward to welcoming the next generation of the family shortly.”
If you are a woman in agriculture and you want to share your story, email – firstname.lastname@example.org – with a short bio.