I’m from Tyrone, south Tyrone. I’m just near the border there with Monaghan and I’m really close to Armagh as well.
The Blackwater River runs through the farm and Armagh is on the other side of the river.
We have an organic sheep farm. We have a few horses there as well and native Irish forestry.
Then, we also have a wee orchard at the front of the house. That’s a hobby of my mum’s. There are apples, plums and pears there.
It’s my dad, my brother, me and my sister working on the farm. My sister, she did environmental science, so she’s wanting to get a job in ecology. She’ll not be working on the farm in a sense, but she helps out now and again, you know.
We’ll be starting lambing in less than a month’s time. We’d usually be lambing from Christmas onwards, but then this year we decided to go a wee bit further out, just because the weather is unpredictable at this time of year.
I love lambing, I just love the whole setup of lambing. I work in Lidl. They’re quite good about flexible times. I’m taking two weeks off in the middle of lambing and I often have a 5am start in the morning, so it’s handy because I can do stuff during the day.
Going to Glasgow
I lived in Glasgow, Scotland, for seven years. I have a degree in chemistry from Glasgow Uni. I always thought I’d go down the drinks and food industry side of things.
I love Glasgow. There are so many Irish over there anyway it felt like home. I loved every minute of it. I played Gaelic football for the uni and a bit for Glasgow.
For two years after uni I worked in a drinks company. I was working in the distribution side of it. It was great to be in Glasgow as a student, but also as a working professional.
I moved back here Christmas 2019, just to help out with lambing and stuff for a while. Then I decided to come home for good and be a real help to my dad, my brother and my sister.
It’s great being back, because I moved home just before the whole pandemic. It was good timing in a sense, but obviously I didn’t see it coming.
I think being away made me appreciate home more. I was dying to get home, in a sense, after seven years. But I think it’s great to get away and work in different industries, then come back to the farm. I feel like I’ve brought a lot home with me.
Chemistry and farming
After moving home, I was doing research for the farm. The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) website has loads of things, and all the southern ones as well like Teagasc.
I got really interested in the agri-business side of it. So now I’m actually doing a master’s through the College of Agriculture Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) in agri-food business and rural enterprise development. Hopefully with that I’d get a part-time job in agribusiness that would tie in well with the farm.
When I was doing chemistry in uni, I never really thought about the connection with agriculture. I was potentially thinking of getting into the food processing side, that was all I thought about. Since coming home – especially with the organic side of things – the grass element and the soil, there’s so much to do with chemistry,
Now that I’ve moved home, I hope to buy pH metres so I can do my own analysis. I never thought when I was in uni that I’d be thinking about chemistry on the farm.
I think farming is actually becoming more and more attractive to young people. Obviously people are reassessing their city life during the pandemic.
More and more people understand where their food comes from and you can see a lot of young people taking to farming. Definitely my dad, he has taught us everything about farming. The tell-tale signs of problems during lambing and things like that.
Also, there’s a lot on social media that you can learn from. I’m in a lot of Facebook groups. Then there’s also Instagram, which is full of information. My profile is @glenarbfarm_cat. It’s just wee things you’ll pick up.
I’d love to do our own lamb boxes, but that’s something for the future. I think it’s better, because when you see the price on the shelf – and what the farmer gets – that boils down to loads of different arguments, obviously.
I think when you produce your own lamb box, you know where the money is going and you know exactly how much of a profit you’re going to make back on that.