Women in Agriculture profile: Fiona McKeown

Friday, 9 October, 2020

Place you call home:

Ashvale Farm on the outskirts of Templepatrick village, County Antrim.

Occupation:

I am a part-time farmer, farm shop owner and a mum.

Farming commodity:

We breed pedigree Aberdeen Angus and beef Shorthorn cattle as well as Dorset sheep. Until this year when COVID-19 struck, we showed our cattle at Balmoral Show and the Highland Show as well as our local shows. This was how I spent the summer months with Caroline, our daughter in tow. Due to the ongoing pandemic with all the agriculture shows and sales cancelled this year and some extra time on our hands, we opened a farm shop as another source of income, selling our own home reared beef and lamb to the general public as well as some home baking.

How did you become involved in farming?

I became involved in farming almost ten years ago when I met my husband Richard. Until this point, I had little knowledge about farming but as they say, "the things you do for love!!" As someone who was petrified of cows, Richard bought me a "pet" Dexter bull. He was a steep learning curve as I discovered the first day, I let him into the field and he didn't come running back when I called his name!

Earliest farming memory:

My earliest farming memory was the pet lambs my sister and I had growing up but when they were past the bottle-feeding stage, we had to hand them over to a local farmer.

What personal characteristics did you develop from agriculture?

The importance of working well together but also being able to be independent.

Life lesson you learnt from farming:

That hard work pays off! If you have the passion for farming, there is nothing more satisfying than seeing your livestock happy.

What do you enjoy most about the farming lifestyle?

Lambing time is my favourite time on the farm. There is nothing better than seeing the lambs skipping about. I also enjoy the shows and sales. I have met a lot of new people and close friends through the farming industry.

Describe a farmer in three words:

Hard working, passionate and determined.

What would you like the public to know about Northern Ireland farming?

Farming is an around the clock job but very rewarding. By supporting local you are supporting your local farmers and allowing them to continue a job they love supplying high-quality produce. Also, by supporting local you know exactly where the food on your plate is coming from.

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

To support each other - the farming community is huge but at the end of the day everyone wants the same for their farm business, to strive, be profitable and successful.

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

If you are willing to put in the hard work, then GO FOR IT! It will be the most rewarding career you could have.

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

I hope Northern Ireland's agriculture industry continues to strive and be a good foundation for the next generation farmers to build on.

Pictured above, Fiona's Dorset sheep. 

Pictured above Fiona's pedigree Aberdeen Angus and beef Shorthorn cattle.