As the ink starts printing on the pages of this paper, the Irish Country Living team will be immersed in our Women & Agriculture Conference in the Lyrath Hotel in Kilkenny. For years, this has been one of my favourite days working on this team. It’s like the pages that we work on every week come alive with our 600 readers in the room. The conference educates and informs but it also delivers lots of laughter and heart-warming stories. Every year, there is a story about resilience and the power of women that strikes a chord.

Getting to this week, however, requires months of planning and hard work. And sometimes, getting all our ducks in a row isn’t easy. Like last Thursday evening when the phone call came. I was informed that due to personal reasons, our keynote speaker Ryan Tubridy would no longer be able to attend. Panic rose, but then I took a few deep breaths and remembered that this conference is and always will be so much more than any one speaker. We’re delighted that now we have both Brendan Courtney and Síle Seoige joining us on the day. Brendan has a really powerful message about care for the elderly, while Síle has moved home to her native Spiddal for the balance that she needs in life for her and her young family.


The future of farming, planning your pension and making the most of the amenities on the farm are all on the agenda. And our theme – ‘Finding the Balance’ – focuses the mind and reminds people of the importance of taking time for themselves and the power of the breath. The day is not just about the person on the stage, it’s having the chats with a new friend over coffee or an old friend over lunch. I look forward to giving you the full report in next week’s paper.

We have always held our conference on the last week of October and with it comes the rain. Last Saturday morning, I was looking out at the rain bouncing off the last of our beautiful apples on our apple tree. I was debating whether to run out and get one to grate into my porridge when a slot on RTÉ’s Countrywide stopped me in my tracks.

Sandra Byrne, from Killeagh outside Midleton in Co Cork, is someone I’ve interviewed for Irish Country Living. She and her husband Joe diversified their vegetable farm in recent years to develop Joe’s Farm Crisps, a really different and delicious product that includes not just potato crisps but also carrot, parsnip and beetroot crisps.

They were just one of the many farming families affected by the torrential rain last week. Sandra’s voice broke on air talking about the pressure to get their potatoes out of the ground. If they didn’t, there wouldn’t be any crisps this season, a huge impact on their business. Thankfully, they just about got the potatoes but the beetroot still sits beneath the soil.

In this edition, Grace Hanna writes about the popularity of pumpkin patches. This is also a business diversion that Sandra and Joe are doing. Not only is it a great Halloween activity and a lovely family day, it’s supporting local businesses after a really tough week or two.

We hope the Byrnes and all pumpkin farmers have a busy Halloween weekend, and get a good lift after a very tough week.