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Emma Donaghey – CAFRE Alumni

Emma Donaghey from Stabane, County Tyrone a former CAFRE, Greenmount Campus student, took some time out of her busy schedule to tell me about her education, career, and passion for agriculture. 

Why did you decide to study at CAFRE?  

Growing up on a farm, I have always had a keen interest in agriculture and soon realised I wanted to pursue a career within the industry. While at school I attended a CAFRE open day at Greenmount Campus and I got an insight of what was on offer. Greenmount Campus is set in beautiful landscaped grounds and provides excellent agriculture facilities for arable, dairying, beef and sheep enterprises. It was then I knew that studying at Loughry would provide me with a great opportunity to start my career. The Greenmount Farms provided an excellent practical learning resource enabling me to ‘learn by doing’. Greenmount Campus has something to offer everyone, both on farm and in the classroom. 

What course did you study at CAFRE?  

Whilst completing my A-Levels at Holy Cross College, Strabane, I applied to study on the Foundation Degree (FdSc) in Agriculture and Technology course which was a two year programme validated by Ulster University. On completion of the Foundation degree I progressed to complete an Honours Degree in Agriculture at SRUC, Scotland.  It’s great to see that CAFRE is now offering a new Honours Degree in Sustainable Agriculture, which adds to the Higher Education courses already available at CAFRE and provides further choice for young people in Northern Ireland. This course offered a great balance between practical application and theory. 

What was your first job?  

As part of my course, I completed a12 week work placement in the agricultural industry on a sheep farm in County Tyrone. The farm consisted of 220 Suffolk x Texel ewes and 100 Lleyn x mule ewes, which were all first time lambers. During this time I gained invaluable, hands on experience and a deeper insight into the day to day running of a farm business.  

What is your current job and responsibilities?  

Currently I am employed by Countryside Services Limited, Dungannon. My role consists of delivering Tier 1, Tranche 3 of the Farm Business Improvement Scheme (FBIS) to farmers in Northern Ireland. I am involved in assessing applications, checking their accuracy and processing claims for financial support as well as dealing with customer queries and providing a friendly, helpful service to customers.   

Do you have a typical working day?  

A typical day in the office begins at 9.00am, I normally begin by opening emails and dealing with queries from the previous day and then discuss with my Team Leader the challenges and tasks for the day ahead and how we will go about meeting targets and deadlines as a team. When a day in the office is complete I head home to Strabane where I farm alongside my father. The usual evening routine consists of feeding and bedding of young calves and breeding ewes.  

What is the best thing about your job?  

The best thing about my job is getting the opportunity to meet and talk to farmers across Northern Ireland on a daily basis and hearing about their experiences within the agricultural industry. I also enjoy providing a friendly service to farmers and assisting with queries in regards to their grant application and I always try my best to help solve any issue they may have.  My current role has also further enhanced my knowledge in different aspects of the agricultural industry for example reducing ammonia emissions through the use of Low Emission Slurry Spreading Equipment (LESSE) and improving animal welfare through the use of cow mattresses and rubber mats.   

What is your fondest memory of your time at CAFRE?  

My favourite memory of my time studying in CAFRE would have to be the student formal. This event gave me the opportunity to meet students from all different courses, getting to know them personally and to learn about their experiences within CAFRE.   

Do you keep in touch with fellow students who were in your class?  

Yes, during my two years at Greenmount I developed great friendships with fellow students. I completed the BSc (Hons) Degree in Agriculture with four fellow students whom I met during my time completing the Foundation Degree (FdSc) in Agriculture and Technology at CAFRE and since graduating in June 2020 we have all stayed in close contact. This network of friends who are all employed in the industry is another fantastic benefit of studying at CAFRE. 

What advice would you give to someone who is considering studying a course in CAFRE?  

Personally, I really enjoyed my experiences at Greenmount Campus. I would highly recommend studying at CAFRE to anyone with the interest in agriculture. I gained invaluable skills and experience during my time. Within CAFRE there is a great support network between lecturers and students. The lecturers enjoy sharing their knowledge and experiences throughout their own careers in the agricultural industry which allows students to get to know them on a personal level, making the students gain more ambition to have a successful career within the industry.