Did you know you can take agricultural science as a secondary school subject?

Several schools across Ireland offer ag science as a subject for the Leaving Certificate curriculum, including FCJ Bunclody in Co Wexford.

In 2012, ag science became a subject on offer to students who wanted to delve into the science behind agriculture and learn more about where their food comes from.

The ag science course covers topics including soil quality, plant growth, animal care and sustainable farm practices. In FCJ Bunclody Secondary School, 80 students are studying the subject at exam level with two fifth-year and two sixth-year classes.

The school is located in a rural part of Ireland surrounded by tillage, dairy and sheep farmers which is why many students choose the subject. However, Stephanie O’Dwyer, the ag science teacher in FCJ Bunclody, explains: “In the last number of years, more students who don’t come from a farm are taking on the subject and doing equally well in it. There are also more girls than boys in the school doing the subject.”

Irish Farmers Journal Junior travelled down to Wexford to meet Ms O’Dwyer’s class to talk to the students about why they chose the subject.

Fifth-year students

Lillie Maher, Ballon, Co Carlow

Lillie Maher, Fifth Year Ag Science Student FCJ Bunclody

Having no farming background didn’t stop Lillie from choosing to study ag science as a Leaving Certificate subject.

“I decided to do it because I loved it in transition year [TY],” she explains. “I found it interesting and enjoyed the experiences. A lot of my friends are farmers and I am surrounded by a lot of agriculture in my area. At the moment, we are learning about soils. It’s cool to see there is a lot more going on underneath the ground than what you can see with your eyes. It is tough – there is a lot of information to take on – but when you work hard on it, you can enjoy it at the same time.”

Mya Hennessy Schmidt, Tinryland, Co Carlow

Mya Hennessy Schmidt, Fifth Year Ag Science student FCJ Bunclody

“For TY work experience, I went to a local vet which I absolutely loved,” Mya says. “One of my best friends has a farm and I would always be over there feeding calves as I had a huge interest in it, so I decided to study it for the Leaving Certificate. I had people doubting me picking the subject because I wasn’t from a farming background, but if you’re interested in it, then do it.”

Sixth-year students

Mark Rothwell, Bunclody, Co Wexford

Mark Rothwell, Sixth Year student at FCJ Bunclody

“I did agricultural science as a subject for the Leaving Cert as I have an interest in the sector and I wanted to learn more about it,” Mark tells Irish Farmers Journal Junior. “I have enjoyed learning about grassland management and systems – especially re-seeding, which is very important for productivity. It’s an interesting subject. I would tell anyone thinking about doing the subject to do it.”

Niamh Doyle, Ballindaggin, Co Wexford

Niamh Doyle, Sixth Year Ag Science Student FCJ Bunclody

“I am from a dairy and tillage farm,” Niamh explains. “We sow barley and turnips and milk 100 cows. I am very involved on the farm and enjoy farming at home. I wanted a career that was outside and I thought it would be really interesting to learn about the science behind what we do at home. I would recommend the subject to anyone as it’s really interesting – and it’s easier to get points in a subject you find interesting than one you hate.”

Bill Quigley, Enniscorthy, Co Wexford

Bill Quigley, Sixth Year Ag Science student at FCJ Bunclody

“I go up to the farm and help with the main jobs: feeding, scraping and milking,” Bill says. “I decided to do ag science as a subject as I always had a great interest in it and wanted to know more about why you do certain things. I think grassland was my favourite part – learning about nitrogen levels and fertiliser – it helped me understand why you spread them. It’s my favourite subject. You don’t have to be from a farming background to study ag science, anyone can do it.”

Elaine Breen, Ferns, Co Wexford

Elaine Breen, Sixth Year Ag Science Student FCJ Bunclody

“I am from a dairy and tillage farm,” Elaine says. “Having switched from sucklers to dairy, we have gradually built the herd number and are currently milking 96 cows. I decided to do ag science because I am from a farming background and I have a good interest in the subject. I am thinking of doing it at third level, so I wanted to have a good general knowledge.”

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