Women in agriculture featuring Rebecca Brunt
Place you call home: Trillick, County Tyrone.
Occupation: I’m a veterinary nursing assistant in Erne Veterinary Group, Enniskillen.
Farming commodity: We’ve always had sucklers and sheep on our family farm but recently made the leap back into dairy farming. It has been a big change but has been very rewarding and we can’t wait to see where this will take us in the future.
How did you become involved in farming? I am very fortunate to have been born into a farming family. From a young age it was “me and Daddy” out on the farm. My favourite activity was going to the mart with him, mostly because of the dinner we would get after an evening around the sale ring! Farming is something that we do together each evening and at the weekends, and despite the odd disagreement here and there, I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Earliest farming memory: One of our annual trips to Balmoral show with my parents where my dad won Best Small Dairy Farm. This was a childhood highlight and my dad was so pleased he bought me a velvet hairband with my name on it. I remember my first proper pet was a cow called Buttercup, she was a Charolais that I would sing to sitting on the silage whilst my dad did the feeding – I don’t know which of them appreciated the singing more! I also remember carrying my sandcastle bucket full of nuts through the parlour with a dummy in my mouth, trying to help my dad.
What personal characteristics did you develop from agriculture? It has greatly influenced my choice of career as I have always had such an interest in all kinds of animals and it has shown me how to be compassionate towards animals which is necessary on a daily basis in my job role.
Agriculture and farming have shown me how to be hardworking and to persevere – from getting up in the middle of the night to lamb ewes, to my more recent early mornings getting up to milk cows before work! There is really no option of quitting when it comes to a farming task, you just have to keep going until you achieve the result you need.
Another characteristic my friends tell me I have is a positive attitude, although it might take a few minutes for the smile to kick in when the alarm goes off in the morning!
Life lesson you learnt from farming: In 2015 we learnt the hard way about farm safety when my dad fell through a roof and broke his back, whilst fracturing his pelvis and skull. This was a very difficult time for us as he was in hospital right up to Christmas Eve, and we had lambing starting in January. It really showed us that it’s never worth it to take the risk, and how lucky we were not to lose him from that accident. Farm safety is now paramount in everything that we do.
What do you enjoy most about the farming lifestyle? The lifestyle offers me what I need, when I need it. There is a social aspect that I partake in through my membership within the Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster, where you get to meet other likeminded people, discuss what’s happening in the industry at the minute, and of course, the odd night out here and there as well.
On the other hand, the farming lifestyle offers you peace when you need it. A chance to clear your head when it’s just you and the cows taking in the view walking out to the field after milking.
Describe a farmer in three words: Handy, devoted and hard-working
What would you like the public to know about NI farming? Farming in Northern Ireland has standards like no other when it comes to animal welfare and food traceability. It has been said time and time again, but supporting local is the way forward, especially with concerns such as sustainability and carbon footprint being the hot topic at the moment.
If you could give farmers/farming families/ farming community one piece of advice what would it be? Be there for one another. It’s easy to give your next-door neighbour a wave when you pass them on the road a few times a day, but stopping to have a proper conversation can really make the difference to someone’s day. Take time to check in on one another, be it a phone call or over a cup of tea. Farming can be an isolating profession, and it’s so important that we make the effort with each other. There are excellent organisations such as Rural Support out there for anyone who is struggling and feels like they have no one to turn to.
What would you say to others who are considering a career in the agri industry? Just go for it. If you have a passion for farming and the agri-food industry, you won’t regret it. There are so many careers available within the farm to fork chain, no matter where your interests lie there will be something in it for you. I never thought that my life-long love for animals would lead me to the career that I am in, and I have my farming background to thank for that.
What are your hopes for the future of Northern Ireland’s agriculture industry? As I have said earlier, the people of Northern Ireland supporting local farmers is the only way to future-proof this industry. Whether it is through buying local or just being patient when driving behind a tractor or cattle on the move. The support of Northern Ireland people will hopefully help keep the industry moving onwards and upwards.