Women in agriculture profile featuring Gemma McCorry

Gemma McCorry.Gemma McCorry.
Gemma McCorry.
​Place you call home:

A small family farm in Co. Antrim, upper Ballinderry.

Occupation:

Full-time student at CAFRE, Greenmount, studying the Ulster University course ‘sustainable agriculture’ while running my beef and sheep farm at home. I also like to go to morning milkings before college to fulfil my love for dairy cows.

Farming commodity:

My grandad and I have a flock of pedigree Shropshire sheep to graze around our Christmas tree plantations. Alongside this, we have a small herd of pedigree Hereford suckler cows. I recently purchased a pedigree shorthorn heifer from the cherry valley herd, and I am excited to expand in the coming years. We also enjoy buying in drop calves and pet lambs.

How did you become involved in farming?

I am a ninth-generation farmer. For as long as I can remember, I always enjoyed helping my grandad lamb and dose the sheep while picking strawberries and sweet William for the shops and being involved in the family Christmas tree farm.

In 2015, when I was 11, my dad bought me a in calf pedigree Hereford cow with calf at foot. We picked this breed as grandad used to keep them in the 1960’s. Once I had this cow, my love and interest for beef cattle grew and I quickly realised the responsibility and importance of getting up every morning to feed and water.

My love for beef cattle began when my granddad and dad would take me every year to the Balmoral show. I would watch the cattle get judged on the Wednesday. It has always been my dream to show at Balmoral and now with my own herd, it could come true, and my beef herd could expand.

Earliest farming memory:

When I was eight, during the summer when the strawberries and sweet William flowers would be ready in the poly tunnels. I would help grandad pick them while also stuffing my face with strawberries (I was also allergic so I would always come out in a rash).

What personal characteristics did you develop from agriculture?

I have always been a loud bubbly person filled with joy, laughter, determination and sass. I never enjoyed my secondary school in Belfast as I was different and never had many friends. Once I finished my GCSEs, I was ecstatic to know I didn’t need to go back. I really lost myself in school and would only feel better when I was on the farm on the weekends.

I was nervous starting Greenmount (2021), but once I realised everyone was like me and we had the same interests, I started to open up. I have made friends for life and my time at Greenmount has opened so many opportunities for employment, and my year out on an agriculture placement during my level three has taught me skills to manage the daily running of the farm and be a farm manager.

So, the characteristics that agriculture has helped me develop is, determination, resilience and tolerance. You can’t control what goes on and you just have to sort it, there’s no point getting upset about it (like when cattle break out).

Life lesson you learnt from farming:

You can’t control everything; weather, the price of meal; you have to expect the unexpected.

There is no finishing time (especially during silage, lambing and calving season), but you have to go easy on yourself. We all know farmers are over worked and accidents can happen when you’re over tired, so change up the days as tomorrow is never promised. Make time for family, weekends away or even a coffee.

Finally, it doesn’t matter what others think as long as you are happy. If you don’t love what you do every day you’re doing the wrong thing.

What do you enjoy most about the farming lifestyle?

Being my own boss and meeting new people every day at different young farmer events. The thing about the family farm is it can be challenging as well as rewarding. I have the pleasure of still farming alongside my 92-year-old grandad while making him proud every day. When the weather is right there is no better place to be. Most of all I love being outside and being surrounded by livestock. I’m so lucky to be a part of this lifestyle.

Describe a farmer in three words:

Strong, independent, hard working.

What would you like the public to know about NI farming?

The public has a unique perspective of farming. Some think it’s all sunshine and rainbows, while others think it is cruel. But in reality, Northern Ireland farming is brave.

Farming is a way of life; we don’t get days off, vacations, pensions, we do what we do to survive, often with very little in return. Farmers are responsible for so many livestock and in terms of animal husbandry, farmers have skills/instincts that are second to none. A farmer would do anything for their animals.

NI produces the best produce. Sometimes it’s very easy to walk into a shop and forget how much blood, sweat and tears, time and money, farmers put into their work to produce the induvial items consumers pick up. It’s so disheartening that we tend to get so little in return and are left struggling to break even never mind make a profit. No other business would tolerate the level of return a farmer gets. I would like the public to have a better understanding of what a farmer has to do and the sacrifices they make to produce the food that we take so much for granted.

I’d also like them to know that the agricultural community is one of the best to be a part off. I have never known so much kindness between people, from helping each other out with time and advice, to lending machinery and just general support.

If you could give farmers/farming families/ farming community one piece of advice, what would it be?

Always take one day at a time. Never take a day, family member or staff for granted as farming is so unpredictable – agriculture is one of the most dangerous industries, always stop and think and plan your next move.

Farming can be a lonely occupation. It’s important to look after your mental health and look out for others, especially those who farm alone. There are excellent charities and lifelines to call day or night. No matter how alone you may feel, the NI farming community is so big – you’re never alone. Often, no matter how big or little the problem, one of us is usually going through the same issue or something similar.

What would you say to others who are considering a career in the agri industry?

Go for it! Farming is super easy to get into and you don’t need to be from a family farm to get into it. There are so many jobs in the industry. But remember it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. There are days when things go wrong and the weather is rotten, but 90% of the time it’s one of the best jobs in the world and can be very rewarding. I absolutely love it.

What are your hopes for the future of Northern Ireland’s agriculture industry?

My hope is that the public realise just how important farming is and that they will continue to support it. It would also be nice to see more of the public attending Open Farm Weekend which is taking place in June. It’s a great way for the public to see real life working farms.

Finally, I hope NI and the UK, will be recognised for having world leading food production standards, and that consumers always chose local first.

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