It’s the reverse fairytale - an increasing number of the fashion set are upping sticks to the countryside in search of the good life. PENNY McCORMICK ponders whether to join them.
Ailbhe Gerrard also enthuses about her change of direction from construction project management to farming as “a bit of a blast. There is quite a lot of mud but lots of fresh air.” She took over a farm beside her family home in Co Tipperary in late 2010 and since then has immersed herself in studying and adopting organic and sustainable farming methods – firstly at University College London and then Scottish Agricultural College. Highlights at this time of the year include being out as the buds burst, keeping an eye out for starling murmurations and swallows and noticing the difference in the days since the spring equinox. She quotes the old adage “If the oak is out before the ash, we shall surely have a splash; If the ash is out before the oak, we shall surely have a soak.” (Gerrard predicts a dry summer, based on the oak leafing first this year). In addition to planting and managing broadleaf woods and sowing ten acres of wildflower meadows which come into full bloom in August, Gerrard also looks after her hiveshares – a thriving artisan honey business for which she has won several awards. “It’s my favourite thing, connecting me as a farmer to people in the city. People love it as an experience and I keep those who have hives in touch with their bees via newsletters and photographs from the farm.” In addition she also lectures part-time in Gurteen Agricultural College and envisions how much better agricultural education could become. “There needs to be room for the magic and the wonder. I love to see students realising their potential.”