Brendan Courtney in conversation with Ciara Leahy at the Women and Agriculture conference 2023 in the Lyrath Hotel, Co Kilkenny. \ Philip Doyle

Women & Agriculture is Irish Country Living’s annual flagship event for their readers. The day-long conference changes location each year and delivers a line-up of inspiring speakers and thought-provoking panel discussions.

This year's event also included entertainment from Sing Along Social, which saw over 620 attendees singing and dancing together to some well-known classic hits.

The theme of this year’s conference, ‘Finding the Balance’, struck a very personal chord that echoed throughout the day’s proceedings.

Women and Agriculture Conference 2023 \ Claire Nash

Irish Country Living (ICL) columnist, Katherine O’Leary, chaired the conference and opened it by sharing the story of her recent cancer journey. Her words were applauded by attendees and set the tone for the day.


Irish Country Living editor, Ciara Leahy, opened the conference with her own account of 'finding the balance', and she reminded people that the conference was “a safe space” in which to share, comment and enjoy themselves.

The atmosphere among the audience and speakers was overwhelmingly enthusiastic and energetic; there was a definite buzz in the air.

After a very warm welcome from Irish Farmers Journal editor, Jack Kennedy, the first session began with a live podcast recording of Farm Tech Talk on the issues and opportunities that farming families can expect in the next 12 months.

Irish Farmers Journal editor Jack Kennedy at the Women and Agriculture conference 2023 in the Lyrath Hotel, Co Kilkenny. \ Philip Doyle

There was also a discussion on what consumers are looking for in their weekly shop, both at home and abroad. This episode included special guest Grace Binchy of Bord Bia.

Guest speakers

Special guest speakers on the day were well-known TV presenters Brendan Courtney and Síle Seoige, who each joined Ciara Leahy separately for chats on the couch.

Brendan, a real family man, made a documentary about his father’s last year of life and experience with the Fair Deal Scheme. At the conference he shared how his mother is now living with dementia and how that has been for him and his family. He captivated the audience with his honesty, wit and light-hearted banter.

Dream home

Síle, who has left Dublin and returned to Connemara to build her dream home with her partner, spoke about how the moves has helped her find balance. Her personal story of thyroid cancer, miscarriages and the importance of family and a close-knit rural community had the audience enthralled, and emotional moments were shared, both on-stage with Ciara, and off among attendees.

Other speakers included Carol Brick, who presented on female-focused finance; Harrison Gardner, co-founder of Common Knowledge, spoke on the opportunities of derelict farm buildings; and Rachel Doyle, founder of Arboretum Garden Centre in Carlow, who shared her business story which spans 45 years.


Irish Country Living’s recent cover star, Claire Walsh (a free diver and author), gave the audience her fresh perspective on life.

Bridget Kearney, owner of Belle Femme Lingerie in Kilkenny, opened our eyes to how important a good bra is for our bodies.

One of the more serious topics of the day, conflict resolution, was addressed in a panel discussion hosted by ICL’s Janine Kennedy, where the sometimes taboo subject of succession, with its difficult farm table talks, was delved into by an expert panel.

Women and decision-making

Commenting on the day, CEO of the Agricultural Trust, William Minchin said, “Everything on an Irish farm is sustainable - with the exception of the farmer. In a lot of cases, it’s the female in the house or farm who helps make the decisions that make the most sense for the family. The importance of women in the decision-making process in the farm is vital. I know from my own mother - my father farms in partnership with her - and I also have three daughters and my wife in my own family who form my decisions.

“I really enjoyed today’s conference. The atmosphere in the room is probably one of the best I have ever experienced in terms of the enthusiasm and energy from attendees. I was excited to have Rachel Doyle here from Arboretum in Carlow. I read her book and it just makes you realise what a fantastic businesswoman she is. A true entrepreneur, she booked the trend for years in terms of business.”


This year, the Lyrath Estate was an ideal backdrop for the event with a fantastic main room for all of the talks and space for an exhibitors’ mall outside the doors.

This included a selection of Irish producers and businesses – a lot of them local to the Kilkenny area – who were there to chat to attendees and showcase their products.

Exhibitors included Bó Bar Soap, Nude Wine Co., The Scullery, Bally Bar Clothing, Cormac Tagging, Yellow Dear Designs, Farm Wardrobe, Designer Threads, Arboretum, Jo Browne, The Flower Gardener, Raw Botanicals, Step Forward Ireland, Baavet, Embrace, Coole Swan and Biddy’s Good Luck Horseshoes.

The Women and Agriculture conference finished with a performance by Sing Along Social.. \ Philip Doyle

And the 14th year of Women & Agriculture finished on a very high note with another memorable performance from Sing Along Social.

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