Rachel Connolly’s parents may work in the medical field, but she is diverting her career in an alternative direction.
“My father grew up on a farm and I visited my uncle’s farm throughout her childhood.” the 20-year-old told Catherina Cunnane - That’s Farming.
The Donegal native aspired to be a teacher; however, whilst studying Agricultural Science for her Leaving Certificate, she became interested in animal husbandry and the environmental aspects of farming.
On the back of this, Rachel applied to study Dundalk Institute of Technology’s BSc (Hons) in Agricultural Science – a degree programme that is delivered in conjunction with Ballyhaise Agricultural College.
In the summer after her exams in 2017, she began working on a mixed farm in her locality. “I found this work to be challenging but rewarding and realised this was the career I wanted,” she told Catherina Cunnane - That’s Farming.
She enrolled in the course in 2017 and is set to graduate in 2021. “I chose this degree programme as I liked the fact that it involved more hands-on practical experience.”
“I didn’t like the idea of being confined to a classroom most of the time which is the case with some courses.”
“So far, I am really enjoying it and would highly recommend the course!”
She completed work placement on a 320-cow dairy farm in Donegal as part of her studies. “The farm rents land in Westmeath; cows are brought up to be milked there for the season.”
“This was a great experience and I gained valuable knowledge working between both farms,” she added.
Armed with practical farming experience, the 20-year-old took a leap of faith and embarked on the next chapter.
She was encouraged to establish her own flock of Border Leicester sheep last summer. “This has definitely been the greatest highlight so far; I hope to put them to the ram this summer to increase my flock size come next March.”
“I enjoy working closely with livestock the most. When it comes to jobs like dosing, milking and vaccinating, you’ll always find me stuck in the middle of it.”
“I’m not the type of person to sit idle so I like how fast-paced farming can be at times; you’ve always got to be a step ahead of yourself!”
Rachel and her father also dabble in agricultural contracting; she helped him to restore an International 885xl which he purchased when he was younger.
“We also now have a 435D Baler which was also renovated and we now use to make bales of hay during the summer.”
“We bale for many farmers around the area and although I usually get the fun job of gathering them up, I get the chance to be behind the wheel baling!”
Women in Ag
Rachel said that although farming can be physically demanding, despite advances in mechanisation and technology, she does not view this as a barrier or challenge.
“Chasing after animals that break out or shouldn’t be where they are, keeps me fit and healthy!” she added.
“Women are in no way less capable than men and if anything, may be better in some aspects of farming tasks!” she added.
“In the past, women traditionally may not have been accepted on farms, but this is definitely changing.”
Rachel admitted that females in agriculture often have to try harder at times to prove their abilities but she has had a positive experience to date. “I have never had any negative encounters and have always felt treated equally alongside my male colleagues.”
“I thoroughly enjoy being a woman in ag and would not have it any other way,” she added.
Once she graduates, the Donegal native (20) hopes to move abroad with a view to gaining further knowledge of farming practices in other parts of the world.
“Ultimately, the future goal would ideally, be to become a farm advisor while having my own farm as a separate enterprise.”
“For anyone starting out in farming or hoping to pursue a career in the Agri-sector, I would highly recommend it. Although it can be difficult, it is very rewarding and no two days are the same!”
“I believe if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life!” she concluded.
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