24-year-old Siobhán Dermody should be travelling to Co. Carlow this week to defend her title as Queen of the Plough having won the 2019 farmerette 2-furrow competition.
That was her plan before the Covid-19 pandemic struck which led to the National Ploughing Association’s executive’s decision to cancel all national ploughing classes with the exception of international qualifiers classes this year.
“The National Ploughing Match was always an annual day out for my family and I, a day we always cherished taking off from school.” the suckler farmer explained to Catherina Cunnane, editor of That’s Farming.
“2020 is going to be a year for the history books, but I look forward to doing it all over again next year.”
Siobhán’s ploughing career began through her membership with Mooncoin Ploughing Association, a move which unleased her competitive streak.
In spring 2018, she participated in the 3-furrow reversible ploughing competition in Mooncoin, Co. Kilkenny. “This was a novelty class open to all beginners to try and attract the younger generation to ploughing.”
From there, she went on to win the county championship in the farmerette 2-furrow conventional ploughing competitions which resulted in her representing her county at the ‘Ploughing’ in Screggan.
“We thought ‘Ploughing 2018’ was a year at the ‘Ploughing’ we would never forget as Storm Ali emerged that Wednesday morning.”
“The following year in 2019, my coach, Eddie Doyle and I did it all again in Fenagh, Co. Carlow where I was crowned ‘Queen of the Plough’ in the farmerette 2-furrow competition.”
Although the 24-year-old Piltown, Co. Kilkenny native has no ploughing-related commitments, for now, she continues to assist with the running of the family farm and has moved to fill a new position at Teagasc in recent months.
Their autumn-calving suckler herd comprises of Limousin, Charolais, Simmental and Angus breeding females, which are bred to a five-star Limousin stock bull.
Suckler farming is a family affair for the Dermodys; Siobhán says her mother is the “backbone of the farm”, while her father, Martin, and her brother, James, run their own haulage company and provide assistance on-farm when required. Her younger brother, Andrew, is currently completing the Green Cert and her sister is nursing overseas.
Her father, Martin, inherited an out-farm in his mid-twenties and later purchased a farm which is now home to the suckler herd.
“From a young age, I have always been helping out on our family farm, and I could drive a tractor before I could ever drive a car.”
“Breeding excellent quality stock and seeing the great results is probably my favourite part of suckler farming.”
“One thing is for sure; we can be proud of what we’re producing. We can only hope that a change will come because good-quality suckler herds are getting rare.”
“The current prices are extremely challenging. We are hoping to sell our 12-month-old bulls in New Ross Mart next week so hopefully, we will be rewarded for the time, cost and effort we have put in over the last year to bring our stock to this high standard.”
“We, as farmers, don’t get a fair share for the work we put into the produce.” the young farmer stressed.
Siobhán has combined her agricultural roots with her passion for business; she enrolled in Waterford Institute of Technology’s Bachelor of Business Honours degree programme in 2014.
“Choosing this course was the best decision I ever made. You get to make friends for life as it is such a close-knit community - you really get to know one another as it is all classroom-based lectures.”
“You get to make real relationships with lecturers and they know you on a first-name basis. The main benefit of this course for me was that it offered a 15-week work placement opportunity.”
“From the time I started in W.I.T to the day I left, I enjoyed every moment of it. We had a very intimate class group where we got on so well with all the lecturers and they encouraged us every step of the way.
The Kilkenny native availed of ample job opportunities throughout her studies and has continued to do so since she graduated in 2018. It all began when she completed her 6-month work placement in the HR department in Teagasc.
Once she finished her final year exams, she was offered a full-time position working for Clark Recruitment on behalf of Teagasc with responsibility for all external recruitment in the state agency.
She then secured a permanent position in the Teagasc Advisory Office in Mullinavat, Co. Kilkenny as a clerical officer in March 2019.
“I thoroughly enjoyed dealing with the farmers every day – being a farmer’s daughter was a great advantage. I was on first-name terms with all the clients in the area and vice versa.”
Research operations administrator
All this experience to date has now led her to become a research operations administrator in Teagasc, Head Office, Co. Carlow and she has since completed the Teagasc Distance Education Green Cert Programme at Kildalton Agricultural College.
“I always wanted to combine my love for agriculture with my business background and I am delighted to have got the opportunity to do so.”
As a research operations administrator, she works in collaboration with the director of research, head of research operations and the research operations team to ensure administrative best practices are followed.
Siobhán is tasked with assisting with the organisation of meetings, webinars (including the Teagasc Research Insights series) and events.
She is currently working on the Walsh Scholars: The Next Generation, which is a public showcase of the state agency’s leading postgraduate agri-food research that will take place as a live webinar on November 5th.
“Starting a new job during Covid-19 was challenging, as working remotely can be extremely lonely as everybody needs human interaction and connectivity.”
“Meeting new colleagues via Zoom is just not the same as face-to-face. It was a huge change from working in an advisory office where you are meeting and greeting farmers on a daily basis to moving to a job where it is all Zoom-based.”
Finding her feet in her new role, Siobhán will continue to plough her own furrow, adding more strings to her ever-expanding bow. "My journey to date has deep connections with the agri-business world, so who knows where this road will take me into the future." she concluded.
To share your story, email – Catherina@thatsfarming.com
Photos provided by Siobhán Dermody