Donegal farmer swaps Jimmy Choos for Rigger Boots

Although the agricultural shows did not happen this summer, the dedicated competitors and exhibitors continued with their hard work and dedication perfecting their craft.
Isabella Rowatt and her goat on her farm in DonegalIsabella Rowatt and her goat on her farm in Donegal
Isabella Rowatt and her goat on her farm in Donegal

Competitors let us into a few secrets to winning the best in show over the years.

This week on Beidh Aonach Amárach viewers meet Isabella Rowatt who grew up in inner-city Glasgow and started off her career singing pop music and then became the lead singer of a rock band, then played the bass guitar for a band. She always had family from Donegal. She bought an old farm and started taking in waifs and strays - she had a few goats and then decided she needed to train as a farmer - from Jimmy Choos to Rigger Boots.

Her farm is nestled in the foothills of Co Donegal overlooking the stunning Glenveigh mountain range.

Isabella Rowatt with her goat on her farm in DonegalIsabella Rowatt with her goat on her farm in Donegal
Isabella Rowatt with her goat on her farm in Donegal

She makes goat burgers from her herd - and her product has just been selected by Supervalu as an addition to their shelves. She is currently working on the packaging etc for that. She has 80 of a herd but also has about 15 as pets and a donkey. She would have sold her goats burgers at festivals and shows and has recently parked the van up at her farm - creating an outdoor seating area for people to stop and order food. She has a little bit of a petting farm - kids used to automatically stop on the lane to see the little goats and the donkey and she has developed this recently to give the kids more to see and do.

Beidh Aonach Amárach also meet David Leydon, head of food and agribusiness at IFAC and Dairy farmer. David’s not just a farmer, he loves all things outdoors. An avid GAA fan and Castleknock supporter he loves being outside.

In the peaceful Roscommon countryside, David’s rearing dairy heifers. Rearing the cattle through lockdown has been escapism, relaxing and “unread”. David is keen to cover how his farm works, the system he has in place and his life rearing dairy heifers, but David’s work isn’t only with his heifers. He only has time to do farming part-time. His passion for farming has carried his career and integral role in IFAC to benefit all of Ireland.

David is focused not only on “the now” but “the future” for what farming is going to look like; how will climate impact the way we move forward and in the digital era, we now live in, how will farming continue to evolve? Through lockdown, he’s been talking a lot about how food supplies will change - is it going to become more local? And how COVID has impacted farming with the growth of online shopping.

Johanna Ní Mháille is a photographer from Indreabhán, Co Galway. Johanna is a hobby photographer. After being introduced to John Hynes postcards at a young age, Johanna has always had an interest in photography but it was the agricultural shows that encouraged her to get out and photograph having entered her first competition at Taispeántas Cois Fharraige, An Spidéal. For several years, she took photos for the show and last year, she even judged the photography competition.

She loves being outdoors and pottering about her native Connemara taking photos of An Tullach beach, donkeys and horses in the fields and her father cutting turf on the bog.

In Fermanagh Beidh Aonach Amárach meets Megan McGrory who has been horse riding and show jumping since she was six years old. Her dad, who is in construction did a job for a man, who couldn’t afford to pay him for the work, so he offered him a pony as payment. Megan fell in love with her pony and began show jumping and has never looked back. She has a degree in Equine Management from CAFRE.

She travelled to Kentucky in September five years ago to work at a thoroughbred horse sales, and was picked up at the airport by the owner’s son, Dean, fast forward five years and they are engaged and living at their home and stables, DM Stables in Lisnaskea in Fermanagh.

Turns out his own mother, from Fintona Co Tyrone, had flown to America many years before to work at horse sales and the owner’s son had picked her up at the airport…who she married and never returned to live in Ireland.

Megan and Dan live for their animals, having seven dogs, 10 of their own horses and another 32 that they are caring for and training for others.

Megan has competed as a showjumper competing at local and national levels and has rows of rosettes and cups to show for it.

This episode of Beidh Aonach Amárach will St Patrick’s Day at 7.15pm on TG4.

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