It was all a bit of a rollercoaster,” proclaims Margaret Farrelly from Clonarn Clover. It’s two years since Margaret won the top prize for on-farm innovation at the Women & Agriculture Awards, brought to you by Irish Country Living in association with FBD Insurance. However, a lot has happened since then, including her success in winning the prestigious EU women farmers’ innovation award. All Irish winners are put forward to EU level but Margaret beat the competition when the judges heard her story.
Back in 1987, Margaret and her husband Leo decided to invest in 150 laying hens on their farm in Mullagh, Co Cavan. Now they have 168,000 hens and the business has a turnover of €6.2m.
“You know you get up, you work, you keep the head down. It never even occurred to me to enter these awards. It was my children and two of the people I work with that nominated me.
When I won and then went to Brussels for the next award, well, it was all a bit like a dream.
“I will never forget that day in Brussels with Phil Hogan, Mairead McGuinness and important MEPs taking time out of their busy schedule to congratulate me and celebrate my achievements on a farm in Co Cavan. You know, it really did fill me with a huge sense of pride, I was really honoured. I don’t even think that, at the time, I could take it all in.”
While the celebrations were memorable, Margaret also talks about the benefit of preparing for the awards.
“When the judges were coming to visit and again when we were sorting the application for the EU, it made me take some time to sit down, take a step back from the business and reflect on how far we have come and what we have achieved. We are all so focused on the next thing, the next project, it is rare that people do that. And you know, not only was it good to reflect, it gave me focus for the future. I realised that I am not going to be running this business forever. Other people need to be competent and confident enough to take over the reins.
“Before, I wanted to know exactly what was going on in every aspect of the company. Now I realise that the business should be successful beyond me.
If it was all to fall down after I leave, then I wouldn’t have achieved what I had set out to achieve. The awards gave me that perspective.
Finally, Margaret says to anyone applying: “Believe in yourself, it’s hard for other people to believe in you otherwise. Looking back on the judging process, I think I didn’t realise the significance of these awards. So when it came to the interview, I was relaxed and myself. I think that might have been key to my success, being myself was the clincher.” CL