When I finished the Leaving Cert, way back when, I was faced with two choices; tip along to Ballyhaise and do the green cert or try my hand at a mechanic apprenticeship. After much deliberation, I decided to do an English degree instead.

I come from a 40 cow suckler farm in north Co Longford, if you can partition the county in such a way, which is run by my parents. The cows are a mix of Charolais and Limousin and we use a Charolais stock bull and a small bit of AI. The bull calves are sold as weanlings in Carrigallen mart and we keep on the best of the heifers for breeding. We’re not the most productive farm in the world but we have turned a small profit each of the last 10 years.

Neither of my brothers had any interest in the farm so I always knew that it would be bestowed upon me, I just needed to do my best prodigal son impression for a few years. Hence my turn to the green cert now even though I have been active on the farm for the past few years. I worked in Dublin at various jobs before starting work with the Irish Farmers Journal almost two years ago.

After some administration and clerical errors (I forgot to post the application form in time) in 2013, I enrolled in 2014 for this year’s distance learning course. One Friday of practicals each month for 12 months plus three exams is what I and my classmates have to carry out this year. There are a further six practicals and one exam next year. By June 2016, I should be a young, educated farmer.

I’m just off the back of a ruthless weekend. We had our third practical day on Friday with a full day of exams on Saturday. Friday was all about dehorning calves and soil sampling. Animal science and animal production as well as crop production were the orders of the day for Saturday's exams.

One of the more colourful characters in the class is a chap from Monaghan. We were shooting over and back questions on topics like “what is photosynthesis” and the like when he interjected.

“I’m telling you, I can’t see myself standing out in a field and I’m saying to myself ‘God, the aul photosynthesis isn’t great here is it’." Hard to argue really but the course is exceptionally well run and organised.

We’re back in three weeks. I’ll have a full update on how to administer remedies and how to weigh cattle.

Yours in education...