“For the next few years, I shifted between project management on large construction projects in Ireland, such as mixed use developments, bank headquarters, offices, and working voluntarily on projects in places like Pakistan and Ethiopia. When I felt in 2007 that the construction boom was over, I looked for an exit, and in 2008 retrained in sustainable development.
“The MSc in Environment and Sustainable Development at University College London was an eye-opening experience, studying and learning with post graduates from Africa, Asia, Americas and Europe. An integral part of the course was preparing for a study trip in Accra, Ghana, working with urban farmers to improve their access to land, clean water and markets. Following this experience, and researching my thesis on different forms of urban agriculture, I realised I had a deep interest in food production, global equity and sustainability. I made a life-changing decision to move back to Ireland from London and to try to buy a farm.”
In 2010, Ailbhe purchased Brookfield Farm, a neglected 26-hectare plot close to her family home and took on the challenge of turning it around through innovation and diversification.
“In order to learn farming and make a farm living, I studied Organic Farming in Scotland, which was invaluable in practical farming skills and the realities of farm enterprises. There is no similar course available in Ireland, and half the students travelling to Aberdeen were Irish.
“Today, the farm enterprises are a mix of livestock and nature. We have an organically-certified sheep enterprise, honey bees, agri-environment – including three hectares of flower meadows, conventional tillage, with a plant to convert to organic, native woodland and broadleaf plantation.