Emma McCormack, dairy farm manager, Ireland
Emma McCormack grew up on a small farm on the rural countryside in the Irish Midlands, and it is there that her love for the lands and the animals that walk it began. She and her four sisters and three brothers grow up among the family’s Charolais cattle, bred for beef. Today, she is a dairy farm manager at a 350 acre farm with 450 crossbred cows. A job that doesn’t leave much time for hobbies, especially in the busy calving season, but Emma manages to find some down time to spend with her family.
Making time for down time
“I have always had an interest in agriculture, but was also very interested in reading, writing and the idea of working for a cause”, Emma, who studied at the Waterford Institute of Technology in the south of Ireland, explains. She started out in horticultural science, but soon found this was not the path for her and switched to agricultural science. “It just felt right!”
One of Emma’s jobs as a dairy farm manager, asides from bringing the herd to its full potential and surveying grass quality on the farm, is to bridge the gap between employers and staff and make sure the right people come work on the farm. “When we have the people and tools we need to get the job done efficiently, we can fine tune things and that will lead to more time off and more opportunities to rest our minds”.
“My hobbies are varied and I wish I had more time to spend on them, but I am working towards a better work-life balance”, she says. “I want to be able to continue doing an excellent job at work while also having time to learn new things, to relax and socialise”.
One of Emma’s dreams for her off time is to travel the world, both for her work as for herself. “I plan to travel in the coming years. I think everyone should try to see the world, or at least some of it! We can all get caught up in pour own lives and challenges, but too often we forget that life is too short for having regrets.”
If the traveling has to wait just a little longer, Emma tries to make the best out of her free time as much as she can. One of her hobbies being writing, she turned to social media in order to inform the general public about life as a farmer and what agriculture is about: “I like to showcase the world class produce that Irish farmers provide by using social media in my own time.”
Next to this, Emma also practices horse riding and a bit of independent farming in pursuit of her other dream, to become an independent farmer. “I also help my father out on our home farm and, despite the fact that it’s similar to what I do daily on the job, it doesn’t feel as much like work. It allows me to spend time with those I hold dear. My family mean a lot to me.”
“My free time is limited and I’m a sociable person, so I find I don’t make enough time for my own hobbies. It is however important to me that I try harder: it is good to have a little time to yourself to do something you enjoy every day”, Emma, who also enjoys playing traditional Irish music on the button accordion, adds.
Actions speak louder than words
If Emma has received negative comments about her being a woman in agriculture, she has never paid them much attention. “I have often received those kinds of comments over the past few years as I found my way, but I just used such unwanted opinions as fuel to push on and prove anyone who had questioned me wrong. The majority of people, however, have always been nothing short of supportive. I don’t think it’s worth our time to focus on the minority who are negative, but we are only human in that regard.”
Actions speak louder than words. To me, that means putting your head down and getting things done.
“I see a lot of discussions happening now across the internet and the media mainly about women in agriculture as a phenomenon and what it means to people. It’s good to talk about what we feel, but in my opinion, if you wish to feel established as a woman in agriculture it’s up to you to lay the foundations”, she says, stressing that it is important to believe in yourself first of all or nobody else will. “Actions speak louder than words. To me, that means putting your head down and getting things done.”
“If, after all this hard work and believing in yourself, you still come across someone who questions your capabilities as a female farmer it is not worth getting annoyed, wound up or offended. Your energy is better placed working within the areas you are passionate about rather than arguing with someone who is narrow minded and cannot see past the way things once were.”
Proud woman in agriculture
Modern agriculture, she says, has changed a lot in these past few years and is no longer about brute force to get the job done. “It’s about being tough from the inside out. Plans have to be changed and cancelled. Weather can be unpredictable. Animals can get sick, and sometimes we lose battle in saving them. Farming is a tough lifestyle.”
“It is, however, an honour to work with animals and to be outside in the fresh air everyday. We are working on the land, trying to improve it for those who will come after us. We are looking after the animals, the people who are helping us and the business. It’s an honest day’s work, and I enjoy the small things that make each day different in this great task of feeding the world around us. I’m proud to be a woman in agriculture, and I’m proud to be working every day to provide world class quality dairy and beef to consumers.”
Emma McCormack (25) from Westmeath in central Ireland grew up on her family’s farm. Always looking for new ways to learn, she considered a Law degree and horticultural science before studying agricultural science. Today, she is the dairy farm manager, a job she was new at in the beginning, at a farm that had just switched from sheep and tillage in 2020. Her passions, next to agriculture, are traveling, learning, writing, horse riding and educating the public about agriculture through her social media. Emma also plays traditional Irish music in her spare time and spends as much as she can of it surrounded by the people she cherishes most: her family.
A big believer in giving back to her community, she organised a tractor and truck run along with her family last December in order to raise funds for two mental health charities, in honour of her brother Michael. For more information, click here.
You can follow Emma on her Instagram
This article was published in Women in Ag Magazine 2022-1. Click here for an overview of the magazines.