Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Thursday 23 November 2017

The Austrian woman who left the banks of the Danube to work on a 400-acre mountain farm in Mayo

My week: Theresa Roddy

Theresa and Sean Ferdinand Roddy on the family farm at Lough Talt Co. Sligo. Photo: Brian Farrell
Theresa and Sean Ferdinand Roddy on the family farm at Lough Talt Co. Sligo. Photo: Brian Farrell

Ken Whelan

Theresa Roddy is an Austrian who came to Ireland 20 years ago to work on a 400-acre mountain farm that her father, Ferdinand, had bought on the Sligo-Mayo border "as an investment".

He sadly passed away before he could make any plans for the holding but Theresa, then in her early 20s and working on the home livestock farm in Austria, persuaded her mother, Maria, to allow her to develop the "investment", and the Sligo holding was duly signed over to her.

It was just before the Good Friday Agreement was signed, and her bewildered mother and siblings couldn't figure out why young Theresa wanted to "farm mountain land in a country where a civil war was going on".

"That was the way Ireland was viewed in Austria at the time. All we read in the newspapers about Ireland were stories about the civil war," Theresa recalls.

But armed with a Home Economics degree and the Austrian version of the Agricultural Green cert, she said goodbye to the Danube and fetched up in the Ox Mountains - and to say it has been an uphill struggle ever since would be an understatement.

Theresa today rears some 250 easy-care sheep on the mountain and sells them for finishing; she claims she is getting no help from the Department of Agriculture for her endeavours.

Theresa Roddy on her farm at Lough Talt Co. Sligo. Pic Shows with her son Sean. Photo Brian Farrell
Theresa Roddy on her farm at Lough Talt Co. Sligo. Pic Shows with her son Sean. Photo Brian Farrell

Some 95pc of the "investment farm" is now subject to the various amenity and conservation land designations in the region - which contain more restrictions on what Theresa can do or not do than you would find in the Bible.

For example, a few years ago she wanted to build a simple fence around the farm to keep the sheep in, but it took two years and €4, 000 of her hard-earned money to achieve this simple permission.

Also Read


This summer, with the heather on the hills growing too high to be cleared off by the sheep, it is with no little dread that she contemplates asking the Department for permission to brown off the excess heather.

And she is highly unimpressed by the way the EU CAP funds are distributed in Ireland, especially when it comes to farmers working on the environmental side of the farming cycle.

"The EU in Brussels suggests a €150-an-acre rate for European farmers, but 40pc of my land is excluded for any type of aid because of the Department's designations, and what is available in the GLAS scheme doesn't come anywhere near compensation for this loss," Theresa says.

"It seems that the Department of Agriculture and the farm organisations are only interested in giving the CAP money to high-production farmers. Their rules ignore farmers in the designated areas despite the carbon credits which these farmers are building up to offset the emissions from the high-production farms.

Theresa Roddy on her farm at Lough Talt Co. Sligo. Pic Shows with her son Sean. Photo Brian Farrell
Theresa Roddy on her farm at Lough Talt Co. Sligo. Pic Shows with her son Sean. Photo Brian Farrell

"There has to be a fairer way of distributing the CAP monies."

Theresa is married to Hill Farm activist Vincent Roddy whom she met at a local MACRA event - "MACRA is a great organisation for the girls and the lads," she says. The couple have a four-year-old son appropriately named Sean Ferdinand.

Does she have any regrets about coming over here to run the "investment farm"?

"No," Theresa replies. "Everything here is done differently and at a different pace to Austria. When I go back to meet my family now I feel Irish and I want to get back home to Ireland."

And what's next on the agenda for the farm?

"We were in Scotland recently looking at Galloway cattle which we could handle on the farm and they would be useful clearing off the heather.

"The only problem is we would have to get permission from the Department to bring them to the farm", she says with more than a smidgeon of dread in her voice.


For Stories Like This and More
Download the FarmIreland App


Indo Farming





More in Sheep