There are a few things that the readers of Irish Country Living value. They applaud honesty, hard work and determination. They attend the conference because they hold their families in high regard and want to learn anything that can improve their relationships within the farmhouse and in the farmyard. They want it to be real and applicable to their lives and they want to have a fun day. That fun day is guaranteed after 14 conferences as the women have built relationships with each other and the Irish Country Living team over the years.

As Ciara Leahy, the new editor of Irish Country Living said, “We want to make it better every year”

I’m back

I didn’t hide the fact that I was thrilled to be back. When Ciara asked me if I’d chair the conference, I didn’t have to think about it; I just said yes. It would draw a thick black line under the last nine months. Thank you all for the beautiful welcome.

Yes, you almost made me cry, but they were tears of pure joy. Looking out at over 600 women, their faces alight with enthusiasm, goodwill and good humour was indeed a sight to behold. The sound of you laughing together and applauding the speakers was pure magic. It filled my heart full of gratitude. To each of you, I say thank you for making the effort.

From my vantage point on the stage, there were three ladies within my view that didn’t smile. It’s funny how, on stage, you pick up these things. I know it might be new grief or new trauma at home or a diagnosis or something else entirely that might be causing unhappiness.

As Síle Seoige told us again and again while she reflected on her own life, things never stay the same. Life changes and we find new solutions. I wanted to go and sit down beside you and say “Tell me, what’s the matter.” Often the telling is the first step. One lady was in a very bad place last year. This year, she came up to me just to reflect on how upset she was then and how life was better now. So, take heart, you will find the strength to cope.

Brendan Courtney

I was blown away by Brendan Courtney. His honesty, his frankness about his life and his family relationships touched a lot of people. He talked about having to put his mother Nuala, who has dementia in a nursing home, how on that day he couldn’t take her there. Another family member stepped in. He told us about making the difficult decision and the effect it had on his siblings’ relationships. He gushed about people leaving the Whatsapp family group in a huff and others adding them back in. He is laughing now, but he wasn’t then. We empathised and imagined what it must have been like for the family. Nobody wants to be in that position, yet so many find themselves in that place. Brendan is right, supports should be channelled to help people to live out their lives at home. It would make families and folk very happy.


The atmosphere in the room moved from electric to serious, humorous to pathos and mostly, we celebrated each other and were happy to see the familiar faces that share this space and friendship of Women and Agriculture. Thanks to Mairead Lavery, former editor who started it all.

Jack Kennedy, editor of the Irish Farmer’s Journal recorded a live IFJ Tech Talk podcast on stage with the podcast team of Caitriona Morrissey, Aidan Brennan and Adam Woods. They were joined by Bord Bia’s consumer insights specialist Grace Binchy. They discussed farming in strange times and how we farmers build our relationships with the consumer. To get a flavour of the conference, put that podcast up on the kitchen table. Experience the dedication of the team and their guest to us the farmers and consumers.

I look forward to seeing you all again next year. Life will have given us triumphs and challenges and we will have weathered and hopefully enjoyed living. Once again, thank you most sincerely for your ongoing support for me personally and the team. To my team, Evelyn, Patricia, Mary, Betty, Ann, Theresa, Patsy and Mary, thank you for your organisational abilities and assistance in the running of the conference.

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