The 2016 winner of the Teagasc/FBD Student of the Year award is Shane Fitzgerald from Kilmagemogue, Portlaw, Co Waterford. The awards were presented by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed TD in Dublin on Thursday, 1st of June 2017.
The winner, Shane Fitzgerald, completed his Teagasc Green Cert programme at Kildalton Agricultural College. The awards are sponsored by FD~BD insurance.
The First Runner-Up Award was given to Gary Clarke, Glan, Tuam, Co Galway. Gary studied at the Agricultural College in Mountbellew, County Galway.
While the Second Runner-Up Award went to Shane Dolan, of Avondale, Kilgarvan, Fardrum, Athlone, Co Westmeath. Shane Dolan attended Gurteen Agricultural College in County Tipperary.
Upon Presenting the awards to the finalists, Minister Michael Creed thanked all the entries and congratulated all the winners he said, “I would like to congratulate the prize winners and all the other students involved. In achieving such high standards, you are well placed to make a strong contribution to the development of the largest indigenous sector in the country.”
Mr. Creed also said the recent expansion of export markets will mean the industry will benefit from the skills learned by these young farmers, he said “This expanding export orientated sector will benefit greatly from the skills, knowledge and enthusiasm that these young people will bring. I would like to express my appreciation to Teagasc for their commitment to education and training in the agri-food sector and to FBD Insurance for their continuing sponsorship.”
Teagasc Director and Professor, Gerry Boyle, also congratulated all entries of the competition, while suggesting competitions like these shape the minds of our future farmers, He added “I wish to congratulate all of the Teagasc Student of the Year finalists, all of whom are engaged in farming. I would also like to recognise the support for more than three decades of FBD in sponsoring the Student of the Year and many other Teagasc initiatives aimed at improving farm efficiency and profitability. Today’s finalists, like most Teagasc graduates are, or will become, the owners of a farm. Essentially Teagasc are educating future business owners. How we educate people for the role of business owner will be critically important.”
Mr Boyle also said that Teagasc intend to focus further on educating the youth of today and helping develop agriculture further, “From a Teagasc perspective there will be a greater focus on developing the capability of its learners to identify and pursue business opportunities, to look at the world in new ways and to have confidence to adapt to change and challenges. Teagasc education, like all education institutions, needs to reshape education approaches to meet 21st century needs.”
Tony Pettit, Head of Education in Teagasc pointed to the benefits of the competition, saying that it highlights the potential of young farmers, while also helping them develop skills necessary to be successful in the sector. He said “The Teagasc / FBD Student of the Year award is a showcase of the potential of our young farmers. All of the finalists demonstrated their passion to improve and develop their farms, be they from a big farm, or small farm, or engaged in full time, or part time farming. This year’s winners represent the confidence and dynamism of the next generation of farmers. While technical knowledge remains very important, young farmers are becoming much more conscious of the broader skillsets necessary to run and develop a modern farm business.
He concluded by stating Teagasc know that numbers entering the industry from schools are decreasing but says the onus is now on Teagasc and other organisations alike to support and attract younger people into farming, “Given the upswing in other areas of the economy we can expect that fewer school leavers will enrol in agricultural education. The challenge for both Teagasc and the farming sector will be to attract people of the calibre of today’s winners.”
The students receiving awards have all completed the Level 6 agricultural education programmes with Teagasc in 2016. The other finalists were:
- Martin Alexander, Ballinacor, The Cross Roads, Killygordon, Lifford, Co Donegal
- Eamonn Gallagher, Cooladurragh, Conna, Mallow, Co Cork
- Linda Hanbidge, Brockna, Kiltegan, Co Wicklow
- Robert Horan, Foyle, Ballinbarry, Thurles, Co Tipperary
- Melissa Jeuken, Green Road Farm, Kilnaboy, Co Clare
- John Kelly, Carrowgillpatrick, Dromard, Co Sligo
- Felicity O'Brien, Goulboy, Kiltimagh, Co Mayo
- Niall O'Sullivan, Upper Froe, Rosscarbery, Co Cork
- Ciaran Taaffe, Funshog, Collon, Co Louth