One of Shane Fitzgerald’s biggest recommendations to young farmers is to travel and see the world.

The 2016 Teagasc/FBD student of the year has said that he sees a lot of students who try to rush home to the farm a bit too young.

“Go work for other people, live a bit when you’re younger and enjoy it. You’ll be on the farm for the rest of your life and it is a tough life and long hours.

“I went away and didn’t do anything to do with farming. It was a J1 and it made me more independent and matured me.

“It developed me as a person a lot. So I’d definitely recommend people to try to travel after school for a few years.”

Importance of education

Fitzgerald says he understands the importance of education more than anyone since he’s been in college for six years.

The Waterford dairy farmer started off in Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) doing accounting and then went back to Kildalton Agriculture College for two years.

“I’ve been there [in education] a long time. Maybe at first I didn’t realise the value of it.

“As you get older, you start to see [the value of it] more and more.”

Going into Kildalton, Fitzgerald already had the business and financial side of things covered. It was his grassland management that he improved on in Kildalton.

“That was a big thing I wanted to focus on when I went to Kildalton. At home we didn’t measure grass, we were still [farming at] high standards, but we didn’t do it to the next level up to young farmers I suppose.”

Green Cert is ‘not enough’

On the Green Cert, he thinks farmers should really have to do four years in education and do the Level 7.

“I just don’t think doing the Green Cert, the minimum, is enough. If you want to take over a dairy farm, it’s all business, you won’t have enough knowledge to take it over.

“You’ll go back home and your father might be only in his 40s or 50s, he’s not going to relinquish the responsibility to you.”

Winning student of the year

On winning the Teagasc/FBD student of the year award, Fitzgerald said that he never expected to win it.

“I’m absolutely delighted, I can’t believe it, I never expected to win it. Just to get this far is an achievement because the standards were so high.

“I never expected to get in the top three never mind win it. I’m over the moon.

“I’ve worked so hard over the years to get here and to have my parents and girlfriend here to support me means a lot as well.

“It’s a proud day for me and my family. It’s a kind of stepping stone in my career.”

He doesn’t think he would have won the award if he had gone straight from school into Kildalton.

“I definitely matured a bit in the four years in WIT. I came back and I was more focused – I knew what I wanted to do.”

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