'We are almost like counsellors for farmers' - New ACA president Owen O’Driscoll on how the work of the agri is not just confined to the schemes
The ACA’s new president Owen O’Driscoll has been steeped in farming since setting up his own consultancy on finishing college
Owen O'Driscoll runs across the car park of ta midlands' hotel to meet me, even though he is early for the interview. This agile West Corkman is the new president of the Agricultural Consultants Association (ACA), a man who lives life at a busy pace.
An Agricultural Science graduate of UCC, the Skibbereen man did his masters in UCG and went straight from the exam hall to setting up shop as a private agricultural consultant, working from his parents' home.
"REPS [Rural Environment Protection Scheme] had just started then so I immediately began to make contact with farmers and draw up plans. It took off from there," he says.
And take off it certainly did. From small beginnings in 1995 and a small company known as West Cork Agri Services, the organisation is now known as Owen O'Driscoll and Associates and has two offices, one in Skibbereen and one in Kenmare, employing 12 people - seven consultants, an office manager and four administrative staff.
"We cover a huge area," he says. "Our farmers are based in the three peninsulas of west Cork and south Kerry and are mainly engaged in sheep, beef and suckler farming with some intensive dairy operations around Clonakilty and Skibbereen."
About half his clients are full-time with the other half earning off-farm income from a variety of sources, including fishing, agricultural contracting, agri-tourism and building.
The work of the agricultural consultant is broad ranging and not just confined to the schemes. "I suppose essentially we are experts or specialists in all the EU schemes and our job is to help farmers maximise the income and the benefits of the schemes," Owen explains. "The range of skills and advice includes animal health, nutrition and well-being, stock management, soil fertility and soil/grass management, farm management and farm safety. We also deal with budgeting, succession, succession planning and farm partnerships."
The most important thing for Owen is the relationship they have with the farmers.