Eleanor Meade is a woman of many talents. An accountant for 11 years, she worked in both the private and public sector. In 2014, she made the decision to return to her family-run business, the Meade Potato Company, where she is now the business operating manager.
Her return has added to the ever-expanding company, which in the last five years alone has increased the workforce by 150 workers, bringing the current employment of the business to 240. Don’t be fooled by the name. The Meade Potato company also produces fruit and vegetables, a diversification which has benefited the company, based in Meath, in recent years. Eleanor talks highly of her family’s business, as well as the career path she took to bring her to where she is today.
“The business began with my father, Philip senior, and late mother, Emily, who grew new-season queens and sold them to local customers and shops. As the numbers of customers grew, so did we, and by 1982 we incorporated into the Meade Potato company.”
Humble beginnings no doubt, and Eleanor’s involvement began at a young age in the company. Her decision to study accounting in Dundalk IT, however, is one she believes benefited both her and the company.
“I was a qualified accountant by the age of 22, after getting my degree from Dundalk IT. I worked in private practice until 2010 and then moved on to the public sector, where I worked for the HSE.
“Both were such good experiences. At the end of the day, everything boils down to numbers. Dealing with people in various industries gave me such an oversight of different sectors. When I was in the HSE, the variation of jobs I had meant I learned so much about things like IT, accountability, efficiency and monitoring. It was brilliant.”
Bringing her experience home
Application of this new-found knowledge to her new job was vital for Eleanor. “My father always wanted us to go to college or leave the business for a few years and bring back what we had learned. The skill set I developed during and after was crucial to the job I am doing now in the company.”
Eleanor makes no secret of the love she has for her job and the business itself. “I really do love it. I love working to get solutions. I love looking into increasing efficiency. I ensure the 10 departments in the company are operating properly and that means there is such variation in everything I do – every day is different.
“Obviously, it was a difficult decision to leave my accounting job, but there was always a desire there to return to the family business.”
Pride and family
If any two words spring to mind when talking to Eleanor, it is pride and family. Pride in the quality of product they produce on the farm as well as the link between all the members of their family to the company, including her father and three brothers – Philip junior, Patrick and Garrett.
Given her success, what advice does Eleanor give?
“The agri-sector is such a wonderful industry. People have a perception it is just farmers or labourers, but it is so much more than that. There are accountants, IT workers and HR managers to name just a few. There are such opportunities for so many in this sector, and people should look into it more.”
Eleanor’s success, as well as the success of the Meade Potato Company is a prime example of what can be done by working hard and making informed career choices.
Eleanor will be just one of the speakers taking to the main stage for the “Corporate to country” slot at the Agri Careers Fair.
If you are interested in a career in the agri-industry, come along to the Irish Farmers Journal and open eir Agri Careers Fair, which takes place in the RDS on 3 March 2016. For more information, click here.