'I could never see myself sitting at a desk all day'
Macra na Feirme Young Leadership award winner Sarah Condren has come a long way since her early childhood days when she had to be lifted over the slatted floor of the cow shed on her family farm.
The 28-year-old from Castletown, Co Wexford was among a number of Macra members honoured at the Macra na Feirme Leadership Awards in Dublin last week.
Sarah has been a member of Johnstown/Coolgreany Macra in Co Wicklow since 2010. From taking part in dairystock judging to dressing up as a horse-meat burger, Sarah feels she has gotten the full Macra experience in the last eight years.
"I got in to it initially because I liked the dairy stock judging side of things but I really like the social side of it. There's a great mix of ages and everyone does their best to get involved," says Sarah.
"I dressed up as a horse-meat burger for a fancy dress before just as a laugh and another time I dressed as a Nokia 3310 for the Muskerry Macra Rally. I won best dressed at that."
Having held previous roles as treasurer and secretary of her own club, Sarah is now county secretary of Wicklow Macra, where she runs a successful young farmers' development group.
"We organise farm walks and they're great because it gives the young farmer a chance to get out and see different farm practices. A lot of the time if there's a father and son farming together it's the father who usually goes but our walks ensure the young farmer goes along," she says.
Sarah's parents Sean and Irene and her brother John run the family dairy farm in Castletown, while Sarah helps out.
Sarah's interest in farming and rural life started at a young age but her mother, Irene, often reminds her of the days when her grandfather had to carry her over the slatted floor of the cow shed on their dairy farm.
"I used to be afraid I'd fall through," she laughs. "There's loads of pictures from when I was small of me being on the farm. It was something I always enjoyed and was all I ever knew. I loved being outside."
Sarah's love of being outside influenced her career path and she completed a degree in animal science in UCD in 2011, followed by a masters in ruminant nutrition last year.
She now works in the Agricultural, Environmental and Structures Division of the Department of Agriculture and gets to meet farmers on a daily basis on farm inspections.
"I love being out and about and could never imagine being at a desk all day. I'm based in Enniscorthy and do GLAS inspections at the moment," she says.
"It's great to meet farmers and make people aware of the importance of the environment."
She feels issues such as farm transfers and negative press are challenges facing the industry at the moment.
"The transfer of land to the young farmer should be made easier so people can work the farm to its potential. I think campaigns like Februdairy are great and farmers are more vocal online and getting positive messages out there."
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