Rachel O'Hanlon is keeping a rich family tradition alive; the third-generation farmer – who hails from a small town in the heart of Co. Down – has been passionate about agriculture from a tender age.
“From seeing my grandas, my dad, cousins and older brother work outside on the farm, I became interested in farming and wanted to do what they were doing,” Rachel told Catherina Cunnane – That’s Farming.
Some of the 19-year-old’s earliest memories revolve around sheep farming, as the O'Hanlons farmed a small flock of sheep throughout her childhood.
Their suckler enterprise now comprises of nine cows, two heifers and a stock bull. “We had to reduce the number of cows as we had limited space up until a couple of years ago."
“We had to split the farm into two halves between my dad and uncle, so, we have a smallholding of cows which is a bit easier to manage.”
Rachel assists her father, older brother and uncle with the running of the family enterprise. “You could find me feeding, herding or helping to vaccinate cattle – I am passionate about all things cows,” she added.
“The challenging thing for me is when something doesn’t go to plan. My dad's famous words "that's farming for you" spring to mind; I believe farming is a game of trial and error.”
“Since I have been brought up on a farm from an early age, the work doesn't seem to be physically challenging,” she explained.
Rachel is farming on a part-time basis, as she is a full-time student. “When I come from work, it's straight outside, or a bit of dinner first.” she laughed.
The Down native is completing a Foundation Degree in Applied Industrial Science in Chemical/Life Science at Ulster University. She is working at Norbrook - a veterinary pharmaceutical company – which is situated in Co. Down as part of this higher-level apprenticeship.
“I chose this course as it is an apprenticeship. I am able to work in a professional environment whilst learning transferrable skills and earning a wage.”
“A lot of Norbrook's products are used on the farm, so I am interested in finding out how they are made and tested,” she explained.
Along with a striking passionate for agriculture, Rachel is also a truck enthusiast. Her father – who is a haulier – has been involved in the sector for years and is currently working for Joseph Walls Ltd – a family-run business which supplies a range of agricultural products.
“I spend most Saturdays with my father going to different farms and delivering animal feed, fertiliser and fencing equipment.” the young farmer said.
Women in Ag
Rachel credits her grandfathers, father, uncle and older brother for encouraging her to embrace her farming roots. “They haven’t held me back from doing jobs on the farm.”
“My experience so far as a woman in agriculture has been great. Every day is a learning day - you can never learn too much when farming.”
She believes that social media is a powerful platform to showcase woman in agriculture. “Instagram and Facebook are showcasing the increased involvement of women in agriculture and our ability to do the exact same jobs as our male counterparts in the sector.”
“When I'm out on the farm, I’m not treated any differently. Jobs are given to me that my older brother or dad would do.”
“My advice to others is to never give up – keep your head down, plough on and show others that you aren't afraid to get stuck in!”
Currently working for a veterinary pharmaceutical company and set to graduate in the summer of 2023, Rachel intends to pursue a career in this area.
Her ultimate goal is to juggle this position with the running of her own herd of pedigree beef cattle which she hopes to establish in the future.
“I definitely want to have my own farm and cattle; I may possibly consider exhibiting them at agricultural shows.”
“As a young woman in agriculture, I have learnt a lot and I'm continuing to gain knowledge about various things that I will put into practice when I start my own enterprise,” she concluded.
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