Speaking to a farmer prior to the general election, Sinn Féin's agriculture spokesperson Brian Stanley began to realise that his party's strategy to improve its performance in rural Ireland was about to bear fruit.
"The farmer told me I would be getting two votes from his house in the election," he recalls. "'Well, thanks very much,' I said. 'Oh, it's not from me,' he said, 'it's from my two children.'"
The encounter encapsulated the key shifts that shaped February's election, when young people and rural people voted for Sinn Féin candidates in unprecedented numbers.
Just 12 months ago Sinn Féin barely commanded 5pc of support among farmers; last month, polling suggested that they were leading the way on 30pc among the farming community, and on 35pc across the overall population.
It has been a staggering rise, but to senior party figures, success in rural Ireland was less of a shock, more the culmination of significant efforts over a number of years.
Stanley says the party took a conscious decision to take rural issues more seriously.
"Gerry Adams was always very strong on that when he was the party leader. A number of years ago, we made the decision to look at what was happening out there in terms of what areas were under pressure," he says.
"One of those areas was agriculture and rural areas."
Stanley, who was elected on the first count in Laois-Offaly with a massive surplus of 5,083 votes, adds: "The myth that other parties want to portray that we are 'urban-based' is nothing but nonsense."
One issue, which he feels clearly touched a chord with rural voters and won significant support for the party was carbon tax.
"We were clear we weren't backing any increase in the carbon tax," he says, slamming the tax as "ineffective". "It's something the mainstream media missed, but people in rural Ireland didn't miss it.
"Where was the greenhouse gas emissions reduction from the €500m collected last year?"
The party's stance on agriculture issues also helped it gain a lot of support among farmers, Stanley claims, adding that much of the party's work in this area has gone under the radar.
"Farm incomes are dropping - the crisis in the beef sector brought it into sharp focus last year - and we have been responding to that," he says.
After Sinn Féin's remarkable election performance, Stanley and the party's other rural heavy hitter Matt Carthy held "constructive and detailed" meetings with the INHFA, the ICMSA, Beef Plan Movement and the IFA.
Stanley says small and medium-sized farmers, in particular, feel that sometimes the farm organisations are not doing enough for them.
"That may be right or wrong," he says. "We feel that while all the farming organisations are trying to address these issues, there are different approaches and priorities."
One of Sinn Féin's core agriculture policies is the establishment of a 'Commission on the Future of the Family Farm' to find solutions to the myriad issues facing the sector.
"I think we are at a crunch point for farming in Ireland between Brexit, the issue of farmgate prices, climate change and the CAP budget," Stanley says. "We need to look at all these challenges together.
"The question is, as a country, do we want to try to maintain the model of family farming that we have, with the average-size farm typically 70-200 acres? If we do, things have to be changed - it means modernisation, diversification."
In relation to CAP, Sinn Féin has for some time sought radical change. In its manifesto, it hit out at "larger corporate farms receiving exorbitant payments", which it says is at the expense of most farmers. It has called for a front-loaded uniform per-hectare payments throughout the state, and an upper-limit payment ceiling of €60,000 per applicant.
Stanley concedes that even before the coronavirus pandemic started, there were fears the overall pot for CAP could be reduced.
On the controversial topic of convergence, he says Sinn Féin fully supported the flattening of payments.
While he says there is "a job of work" to be done in terms of how that it is managed, he feels that farmers' payments shouldn't be based on reference years from 17-18 years ago.
Sinn Féin has also set its sights on significant reform in the beef sector and has welcomed the establishment of the Beef Taskforce.
"A lot of young farmers got involved in the beef protests last year. I spoke to many of them, and they don't see a future in terms of seeing a reasonable income of €30-40,000 per year," Stanley says.
While conceding that governments can't influence the price of beef, he says there are measures that can be taken in terms of transparency.
In August, he published a Beef Transparency Bill, which called for the establishment of a beef market observatory that will report on the price of cattle per kilogram, the live weight, the dressed weight and the quality grade, and of any premiums or discounts associated with the transaction.
Stanley says it was disappointing the bill didn't get Government backing as "it was about handing a bit of power back to the farmer".
He says competition in the beef sector continues to be a huge concern for farmers.
"Farmers have been telling me that the processing industry as it's currently structured is concentrated in too few hands," he says. "Some people need to ask themselves is control, dominance and money the be-all and end-all or do we want some kind of civilised society?"
Sinn Féin has proposed an additional suckler cow scheme to increase the payment to €200 per cow for the first 15 cows in the herd, and Stanley insists it is affordable.
"While there isn't a bottomless pit of money, we think the sector does deserve this support - others have suggested €300/cow. We are trying to be realistic," he says.
"We need to look at the suckler sector in the round in terms of farmers on more marginal land and its importance for the local economies in those areas."
Forestry is another area where Sinn Féin hopes to gain popular support. It has slammed the current forestry policy, claiming it promotes the widespread growth of non-indigenous Sitka spruce, which it says has been detrimental to local communities and in some cases has been damaging to the environment.
Stanley says the development of a sustainable forestry policy is crucial to meeting Ireland's environmental obligations.
However, he said when agriculture is replaced by forestry, it's a problem.
Sinn Féin wants to reform the Forestry Scheme to extend the payment period from 15 to 30 years.
Stanley also says there are opportunities in the climate change agenda to create new incomes for farmers. He feels the traditional forms of agriculture we know today would not be enough to sustain family farms in the future.
"Farmers need additional income. Up to now, the solution has been subsidies," he says.
While they remain important, these funds are now being squeezed at European level.
"The economics of farming on a small, family-sized farm will just not be there on their own. Subsidies will not be enough," Stanley says.
While not a farmer himself, Stanley says he grew up around farms and that he "pulled plenty of sugar beet as a teenager".
He returned from England in 1985 with the intention to build a left republican alternative; he is in his fourth decade in Sinn Féin.
"I spent my adult life trying to keep my eyes open," he says.
"It's been a long road," he says. "Sometimes, we have taken two steps forward and two back, but at the last election, we were hoping to take a step forward, but we made three steps forward."
Egos and grassroots dissatisfaction may scupper Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil's plans to form a government, Sinn Féin's Brian Stanley has warned.
He still holds out hope that Sinn Féin will be part of the next government and said the two conservative parties will struggle to get their bid for power over the line.
"They are going to have issues satisfying egos and deciding who becomes Taoiseach," he said. "While Finna Fáil's leader has ruled us out, at grassroots level things are different.
"And if the Greens don't want to join in, there aren't that many options." Stanley said Sinn Féin want to be part of a left-of-centre government.
"That's our preference, but we have to be realistic about it," he said.
"However, if there is anything the last few months has shown, it is that anything is possible.
"We want to be in government. We want to bring about change, and the most effective way we can do that is in government."
Stanley was adamant that he would not give in on Sinn Féin's carbon tax position in negotiations with the Green Party.
"Of course in negotiation for government, no-one is going to get everything they want, but I'm clear about this: there is absolutely no way we will give into any measure that will destroy Irish farming and rural areas such as a carbon tax hike."
He said Labour, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael "swallowed" the Green proposal and added: "If people don't have viable and affordable alternatives available, you can tax the daylights out of carbon, but they can't make that switch."