It was only a natural progression for Keshia Smith, Mullagh, Co. Cavan to embrace her agricultural roots.
Many of the 21-year-old’s childhood memories revolve around the family’s beef farm, attending marts and travelling in a truck across the Northern half of the country with her father and brother.
“My brother and I were always trying to get days off school to go with Dad in his DAF truck. We forged a connection with a number of hauliers and it all evolved from there.” Keshia Smith told Catherina Cunnane – That’s Farming.
“Farming is a tradition on both sides of the family. My grandfather on my father’s side was a pig farmer and my mother’s father ran a mixed farm enterprise.” She added.
The Smiths built their first shed for beef cattle between 2007-2008 – a major project which Keshia believes made the farm grow to what it is today.
From there, the family began making their own silage and invested in a range of machinery including a diet feeder, a zero-grazer, a slurry tanker, aerators and a tractor.“The farm started to expand and grow; it was fascinating to see the enterprise go from strength-to-strength.”
Doubts filled Keshia’s mind in her mid-teens; she was unsure if the agricultural and haulage sectors were for here.She enrolled in a Security Studies course following the completion of her Leaving Certificate, in order to get her foot on the law enforcement career ladder.
“I kept going back to farming - I wanted to be around livestock, machinery and farmers.” She explained.
“I returned to the home farm and discovered that I am happiest when dosing cattle, forking silage and driving machinery, that’s when I decided that farming is my future.”
She moved away from her father’s farm up to three years ago, but she continues to keep her hand in farming through her presence at livestock marts and beef factories.
“I grew up in the farming and haulage sectors, so I knew no different; it’s a safety net for me.”
She attends Carnaross Mart on a Monday and Ballyjamesduff Mart on a Tuesday, assisting Declan Brady and Son and other well-known livestock hauliers.
“Declan has supported me right from the beginning and I owe a lot to him; he continues to advise me.”
Keshia is keen to learn the tricks of the trade; she casts a close eye on ringside prices when she visits marts weekly. “I help out in the sales yard by helping farmers to prepare their cattle before they enter the sales ring.”
“I do it for the love of it; it is a learning experience for me and it is a great way to meet people.” She added.
Women in Ag
Being a woman in agriculture comes with its own difficulties, as many have highlighted before.
Keshia said that she has been accepted quite well into the male-dominated industry, as she has grown older.
“At the beginning, a lot of people would have looked at me a little bit differently questioning ‘who is this little girl walking around the mart? Who is this walking around the factory?’”.
“Everyone got to know me from going around with my Dad. Mart attendees have watched me grow since I was about six-years-old.” She explained.
She said that some farmers and hauliers have supported her from the very beginning of her career. “I think they have grown to have a lot of respect for me. They know that I have the knowledge and I am ready to put it to the test at any stage.”
Keshia highlighted that more women are filling positions in the area of transport and logistics. “Years ago, this was a male-denominated industry, but more women are coming on stream.”
“They are inspirational role models for girls like me who may be nervous about going into the haulage industry.”
The Cavan native said it can be quite difficult for people to enter the haulage industry due to legislative requirements – holding a correct driving licence and some face challenges when securing employment.
“I have made a lot of contacts so I hope that this will prove its worth in the future.”
Looking forward, Keshia hopes to follow in her brother’s footsteps by enrolling in a Level-6 Certificate in Agriculture (Green Certificate) at Ballyhaise Agricultural College, Co. Cavan next year.
This will allow her to become a holder of a herd number; she hopes to farm a herd of beef cattle in her own right.
She claims that she is destined for a future behind the wheel; her main goal is to obtain a CE licence which will enable her to drive an artic truck.
“I don’t think I could see myself involved in the distribution of commercial goods; I want to surround myself in a livestock-based environment.”
“I will continue to chase my dream – becoming a livestock haulier and a beef farmer.” She concluded.
If you are a woman in agriculture and you want to share your story, email – firstname.lastname@example.org – with a short bio.