“I attended marts while I was still going around in my parent’s arms and still to this day, I get reminded by owners of mart canteens that they had to warm my bottle on several occasions” explained Lisa Brennan.
One of the 21-year-old’s earliest farming memories revolve around purchasing her first animal – a Simmental heifer – at Ballybay Mart at the tender age of eight.
Not stopping in her tracks, the Carrickmacross, Co. Monaghan native took her place at the ringside alongside other farmers, livestock dealers, exporters and agents from this day forth.
She fondly recalls farming - herding and attending marts - with her parents and brother – Thomas – throughout her childhood.
“My late mother would have been my main inspiration; she was one of the very few women farming and attending the mart on a regular basis.” She told Catherina Cunnane – That’s Farming.
M & M Farms and other roles
Lisa’s father is a well-established livestock dealer; he runs M & M Farms with Lisa and Thomas.
They offer a wide choice of beef cattle for sale privately or through an array of livestock marts across the country; a large number of their customers are part-time farmers.
“Farmers can come to our yard at any time and select the cattle they want with the paperwork and deliveries completed on the day of purchase.” Lisa outlined.
Lisa – who is a full-time third-level student – has an important role within the firm, with responsibility for animal husbandry, sales, logistics, accounts and paperwork.
“I love going to the marts on a regular basis; I sometimes use to pretend I was sick on a school morning and make a miraculous recovery by the time dad had the cattle gathered to go to the mart.”
“I’m a chatterbox – I love talking to farmers and listening to stories about how farming has changed over the last few centuries.” She added.
“No two days are ever the same especially at the ringside which can be exciting and stressful at times particularly if things aren’t going your way.”
When Lisa is not farming or studying, she works at Ballyjamesduff Mart when required during the busy season; she wears many hats as an office clerk, office administration and livestock drover.
This position combined with farming and a job with HomeCare in Galway have helped fund her third-level studies.
Lisa is a third-year Rural Enterprise and Agri-Business student at Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology/ Mountbellew Agricultural College.
She enrolled in the course in September 2016 just months after she attended an open day in Mountbellew during her Leaving Certificate.
“I just felt that this course was the one for me as it is more focused on the business side of agriculture, whereas a lot of Agri courses focus more on the scientific aspects.”
Candidates that enrol in this four-year level-eight degree programme spent the first two years at Mountbellew and attend G.M.I.T. in third-year and fourth-year.
“I would highly recommend this course if you’re not sure if you want to pursue agriculture with Business or Science,” Lisa said.
Lisa completed a twelve-week placement at Teagasc in Athenry (Mellows Campus) last February-May.
The fifth-generation farmer worked with members of the advisory team and was involved in Teagasc’s silage shortage scheme; she also received training in sheep management skills.
Placement also opened up pathways that Lisa never considered prior to this. “Serena Gibbons – an Education Officer with Teagasc – pushed me out of my comfort zone and got me to cover some material with the current level-6 class.”
“I spent a lot of my time on the education side of things – correcting assignments, creating PowerPoints and teaching some classes.”
“It really was an enjoyable and memorable experience and the staff in the Mellows Campus were very friendly, helpful and welcoming.” She added.
Women in Ag
Lisa said while the majority of her experiences as a woman in agriculture are positive, she admits that the male-denominated livestock mart scene can present its fair share of challenges.
“It can be challenging at times, particularly if you’re a woman at a mart trying to buy a few cattle.”
“I am well-known through my father and I’m very approachable; farmers come up to me and talk to me and sometimes give me or ask for my advice too.”
She said that women in agriculture are being more respected and recognised more in recent years.
“Women are the backbone of farming as most farmers would be lost without their partner/wife, especially when it comes to paperwork and calf rearing.”
21-year-old Lisa – who is set to graduate next year – has ambitious plans for the future, as she continues to farm and work in Ballyjamesduff Mart and Home Care.
Career-wise, she relishes the idea of imparting knowledge to others and hopes to teach Level-6 in Agriculture students or secure a role as an agricultural inspector.
She would like to combine a full-time off-farm role with farming and has plans to lease a holding within the next two years which will allow her to farm in her own right.
“I also hope to get a lorry license in the near future – I’d also love to go travelling and New Zealand or Canada are definitely on my bucket list.”
“Farming is like a whole different universe and I actually couldn’t imagine who I’d be today if I wasn’t involved in farming or attending marts,” Lisa concluded.
If you want to share your story, contact Catherina Cunnane – firstname.lastname@example.org