A big year on the farm for students at Limerick school

Jess Casey

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Jess Casey

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jess.casey@limerickleader.ie

A big year on the farm for students at Limerick school

Pictured at Laurel Hill are Derek O'Donoghue, Michael Sheehan, RTE’s Darragh McCullough, students Aoibhinn Leahy, Susan O’Neill, Jane McNamara, Aishling O’Neill and Deirdre Condon Gaffney

THE normally pristine Laurel Hill school garden was recently transformed into a mini-farmyard, as students put their five prize Irish Angus yearlings on display.

Although they have no farming background, fifth year students at Laurel Hill Secondary School, Jane McNamara, Aoibhinn Leahy, Aisling O’Neill, Susan O’Neill and Emily Walsh have spent the last year rearing Irish Angus cattle.

Led by their teacher Deirdre Condon Gaffney, the students will have spent 18 months rearing their cattle by the time their livestock is slaughtered in November. 

Entitled From Wellies to Bellies,  the project has earned them a spot in the national finals of the Certified Irish Angus Beef schools competition.

Their project has taken the students to the Agri-aware Farm in Dublin and the Eco Fields organic veal farm in the Netherlands.

The students will also host an AgriCareers Day in their school on April 20 when industry experts will talk to students about pursuing careers in farming. 

The team and their prize yearlings even made a recent appearance on RTE’s Big Week On The Farm.

“It's been brilliant,” student Aoibhinn said. “We’ve really seen the wellies to bellies process or the farm to fork effect.” 

“None of us have a background in farming but we’re interested in careers in agriculture because of this,” Jane added. The students themed their project around the importance of Irish agriculture, creating a lesson plan for primary school students to learn about where their food comes from.

They are well-prepared for when the time comes for their cattle to head for slaughter, according to Aishling. 

“We’ve been through a processing plant in Cahir so we know the process. We know that they are well taken care of.” 

Their advice to any city girls who want to take up farming is simple; Just go for it! 

“Definitely just go for it, you learn so much along the way,” Susan said. 

An all-girls school located in the heart of Limerick City, Laurel Hill has found there is a great demand for Agricultural Science as a Leaving Cert subject. 

“We introduced Ag Science about three years ago as a subject in our school because about 42% of our girls come in from the country and there was huge interest,” principal Michael Sheehan said. 

“What we’ve found is that there is huge integration between the city and the country - the city girls wanted to study Ag Science too.” 

“Pallaskenry College have been incredible and Derek O’Donoghue at Pallaskenry College has been brilliant. Fifth-year student Jane Hannon and her father Paul and mother Eileen have also been instrumental helping us in this because they’ve given us their farm.”

Follow the team’s progress on their Facebook page From Wellies to Bellies Certified Irish Angus Beef