Attending The Irish Times' Higher Options at the beginning of her Leaving Cert year, influenced Rebecca Tierney's career path.
The Aughavas, Co. Leitrim native strongly considering primary school teaching until she met with representatives from University College Dublin at the education expo aimed at second-level students.
The fourth-generation farmer gained an insight into the broad range of agricultural degree programmes offered by the world-renowned institution and the various opportunities that exist for its graduates.
"I could see that the farm was not going to be able to provide sufficient income for my mother and I. I set my sights on teaching because I never really saw the opportunities for a career in agriculture, outside of farming.” Rebecca Tierney told Catherina Cunnane - That’s Farming.
"I came home from the event at the RDS and told my parents that I was going to study agriculture at UCD. From that moment forward, I have never looked back."
UCD & Kiernan Milling
With a keen interest in animal nutrition and health, Rebecca enrolled in University College Dublin's Agricultural Science - Animal Science degree programme and graduated in May-2017.
The 23-year-old joined Kiernan Milling one week after finishing her studies at UCD; she moved to fill the position of Poultry Technical Sales, covering Mayo; Roscommon and Leitrim mainly, with customers in Co. Galway and Co. Sligo also.
"I am out on the road from Monday-Friday meeting with customers and trying to build new custom also."
Highlighting that teamwork is important for the success of any business, Rebecca said she enjoys liaising with her colleagues, revealing that Kiernan Milling's team is functional and closely integrated.
"It's a nice, young team as several of us have joined the company in recent years after graduating from UCD."
"The more experienced reps are on-hand to offer their expertise; assistance and advice when required," Rebecca added.
She said that it is an exciting time to be a member of the Longford-based firm as it continues to undergo expansion. The construction of another state-of-the-art mill will allow the plant to produce over 500,000 tonnes annually.
“My position will be growing further in the next year or so when the second mill opens. The company is growing and I hope to grow along with it.”
Rebecca enjoys her role as it allows her to meet a wide variety of people, with different farming systems whilst also visiting many spots around the countryside.
“Every day throws up a different challenge and one has to evolve to meet those challenges. You grow as a person when you meet different people and learn from their experiences.” She highlighed.
Rebecca said that being a young person in the sector can be challenging, highlighting that she does not view gender as a barrier; being a woman in agriculture has never been an issue for her.
"Some people feel that some young people in agriculture do not have the level of experience that others may have," Rebecca stressed.
"Once you talk to people and demonstrate your knowledge and experience, they do listen."
"My customers have no problems with the fact that I am a female sales rep; they pass no remarks."
Completing an undergraduate degree coupled with her farming blood prepared Rebecca for the corporate world, equipping her with a valuable skill-set and technical expertise.
“The inclusion of 20 weeks Professional Work Experience was a huge benefit. It gave me a chance to get on hands-on experience on dairy; sheep; beef; and pig farms.”
“For me, the chance to gain experience within the agri sector by working within Kiernan Milling was the highlight of the course - this experience opened my eyes to the opportunities in the industry.”
"With my own farming background, I can relate to farmers in terms of their struggles and difficulties they are facing - this helps when I'm out on farms," Rebecca explained.
Rebecca's great-grandfather began farming in the 1800s, with the holding later inherited by Rebecca's grandad followed by her mother; this makes Rebecca the fourth-generation to carry on this long-standing tradition.
Rebecca and her family - parents - father and mother (full-time farmer) and her two brothers - run a 20-cow suckler herd;
The farm comprises of a number of commercials; pedigree Limousins (managed under the 'Tierney' prefix) and pedigree Herefords (farmed under the 'Tooma' prefix). Calving takes place from winter times onwards, with all progeny sold when they reach 8-9-months of age.
Rebecca joined Carrigallen Macra just over 12-months and views this as the ideal way to meet people and de-stress from farming and work commitments; she is the club’s treasurer and represented Leitrim in the Blue Jean Country Queen Festival in June of this year.
“I joined Macra to meet like-minded people in my area after returning home from college. It's a fantastic outlet for people from farming/rural-based backgrounds and non-farming backgrounds.”
Looking forward, satisfied in her current role, Rebecca's short-term plan is to complete a Masters in Poultry Science which she is undertaking with University of Glasgow. Now in her second year of this online course, Rebecca hopes to attain this second degree within the next eighteen months.
“There was always an underlying interest in the poultry sector as my grandfather had hens at home.” Rebecca pointed out.
“The poultry sector is definitely growing. There are not as many young people in the poultry sector as is needed for the challenges ahead, so I saw this a golden opportunity.”
“I am definitely looking forward to the future challenges both within the beef industry and also the poultry sector which will be my main area.”
“Let’s see what 2025 has to bring with the removal of cages and see where we go from there.” Rebecca Tierney concluded.
[Main image: Caroline Keane (That's Farming) pictured with Rebecca Tierney]
If you are a woman in agriculture and you want to share your story, email - firstname.lastname@example.org - and you may be featured on That's Farming next week.