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Fun on the Farm - Farm Walk and Talk 2017

Agri Aware’s 2017 Farm Walk and Talk series took place from March 6-10 and March 13 in agricultural colleges and research centres across Ireland as well as UCD’s Lyons Research Farm.

Nearly 3,000 students from urban and rural backgrounds dusted off their wellies for some hands-on learning at one of Agri Aware’s eight Farm Walk and Talk locations. Agri-food industry leaders gave talks each day of the series and lectures from the colleges and UCD School of Agriculture all spoke on their areas of expertise.

The primary aim of these events is to give students a better understanding of what they are studying and get a taste for the realities of farming life. Agri Aware’s Farm Walk and Talk series gives students the opportunity to witness many of the elements of Agricultural Science Leaving Certificate course come to life on the farm. Students get the opportunity to talk to third level Agricultural Science lecturers and industry representatives adding to what they learn in the classroom and helping to prepare them for their Leaving Certificate Agricultural Science exam. Agri Aware’s Executive Director, Deirdre O’Shea believes Farm Walk and Talk is “… a fantastic opportunity for students to gain an insight into the hands-on experience of a working farm while also getting the opportunity to engage with key industry stakeholders.”

Agri Aware’s Farm Walk and Talk series kicked off this year in Gurteen Agricultural College on Monday March 6. Students experienced farming life with ewes lambing right in front of their eyes! Along with talks from lectures, students received a talk on dairy production from Tom Starr of Arrabawn Co-Op while ABP’s Maria Kilmartin discussed the Irish beef industry and beef processing.

Agri Aware’s Chairman, Richard Moeran and Arrabawn’s Tom Starr with students in Gurteen on March 6

On Tuesday, Agri Aware was in Teagasc Ballyhaise Agricultural College for the first of our two days at the Cavan Teagasc College. Despite the bad weather, students had a great day learning about the Irish dairy industry from Tom Downes of Lakeland Dairies, while ABP graduate programme students talked about the different cuts of beef meat and how cows are graded under the EUROP grading system.

Tom Downes of Lakeland Dairies with a student in Ballyhaise on March 7

Wednesday brought Agri Aware back to Ballyhaise for a second round of farm-filled fun. Paul Crosson from LacPatrick spoke about the dairy industry and milk production at the event and even took some samples of dairy products such as yoghurts to distribute amongst students. Robert Cole and Christy McGowan from Liffey Meats spoke to students about the beef industry. On the day, one of the dairy cows calved outside and many of the students from non-agricultural backgrounds witnessed a cow calf for the first time.

Students in Ballyhaise on March 8 with Robert Cole and Christy McGowan of Liffey Meats with Agri Aware’s Chairman Richard Moeran

Agri Aware also hosted a Farm Walk and Talk event in Mountbellew Agricultural College on March 8. The Farm Tractor and Machinery Trade Association (FTMTA) and Aurivo Co-Op joined the Mountbellew lecturers on Wednesday to talk to students about their organisations and experiences. The lecturers set up a great farm safety talk with helpful visual aids to leave an impression on all who visited. The lambs were a big hit with the students on Wednesday in Mountbellew.

6th year student, Megan O’Malley from Sancta Maria College in Mountbellew

Thursday March 9 was beautiful sunny day in Salesian Agricultural College, Pallaskenry, Co. Limerick. Thursday was a tale of two yards, the dairy and the beef yards! Irish Fertiliser Manufacturers Association (IFMA) representative Kieran Murphy spoke to students about the importance of fertiliser for crops in Ireland.

Students from Portlaoise College in Pallaskenry on March 9

Agri Aware also had a Farm Walk and Talk in the Teagasc Research Centre in Grange, Co. Meath on Thursday, March 9. Paul Nolan from Dawn meats brought out his butcher hat and cuts of meat which added to his fascinating discussion on the Irish meat industry. Pat Hernan of Dairymaster was also present at the event and talked about the increasing use of technology in farms among a variety of other topics relating to the dairy industry. He also highlighted the large variety of job positions on offer in the industry such as engineering positions as well as design positions. He even brought some equipment samples to demonstrate how they are used!

Eddie O’Riordan of Teagasc Grange with Paul Nolan of Dawn Meats and Agri Aware’s Executive Director, Deirdre O’Shea

On Friday, IFMA, Dairygold and Kepak joined Agri Aware in Teagasc Moorepark, C. Cork. In Moorepark students learned from PhD and Masters students who gave talks ranging from milk quality to grassland management and everything in between. Tim O’Mahony, president of IFMA and John McGrath spoke to students on fertiliser the sources of nitrogen and the origin of fertiliser raw materials. Dairygold’s Shane O’Donnell spoke to students about milk production, research and development and Dairygold’s graduate programme. Simon Aylward of Kepak gave students an overview of the Irish meat industry and spoke of the different meat cuts and quality. Students also had the opportunity to see ruminant digestion up close with a cannulated cow.

Agri Aware Chairman, Richard Moeran with Aisling Claffey and Claire Guy of Teagasc Moorepark

The second half of the Agri Aware team ended the week in Teagasc Kildalton in Co. Kilkenny. We were lucky enough that Paul Nolan from Dawn Meats was kind enough to re-join us for this event as his discussion in Grange was highly praised. Sinéad McEntee of Glanbia spoke about the business of Glanbia and her experience working as a graduate in the agri-food industry. The speakers at Kildalton had many interesting displays and discussions which ranged from an equine discussion to a display of the ruminant stomach.

Agri Aware’s Executive Director Deirdre O’ Shea with Louise Carroll in Teagasc Kildalton on March 10

The final Farm Walk and Talk of 2017 brought Agri Aware to UCD’s Research Farm where Minister of State for Food, Forestry and Horticulture, Andrew Doyle, launched the event. Amii McKeever of Glanbia discussed the Irish dairy industry, Aine Mulvihill from Kepak talked about the Irish meat industry, cuts of meat and meat quality. The Irish Farmers Journal’s Mary Phelan informed students of the educational resources that they and Agri Aware have developed as well as career opportunities in the industry. UCD’s Agricultural Science lecturers spoke to students on the curriculum and university course options. Temperatures reached 17°C in Lyons but students kept a cool head as they visited the lambing shed during its busiest time of the year!

Minister Andrew Doyle and Agri Aware’s Executive Director, Deirdre O’Shea with students in Lyons

Agri Aware would like to thank the agricultural colleges, research centres and UCD for facilitating the Farm Walk and Talk events and Agri Aware patrons for speaking at the events.