- 03 Oct 23
Teagasc – the Agriculture and Food Development Authority – is the national body providing integrated research, advisory and training services to the agriculture and food industry, and to rural communities. We hear from students who have benefitted enormously from their exceptional educational standards.
Combining top end cutting-edge developments with a practical education, Teagasc brings a unique, hands-on learning experience to students, with a massively exciting selection of subjects and courses available to learners across all aspects of the agriculture, horticulture, forestry and equine sectors.
Teagasc education centres provide training and vital education in collaboration with universities and institutes of technology across the country, and are in the process of developing a wide range of apprenticeships through 2023, and further – all of which will be validated by QQI.
Ellen Vaughan is a full-time home economics teacher and recent winner of Teagasc/FBD Student of the Year. Growing up on a farm, the teacher has always had an interest in agriculture and farming, with her earliest memories including wellies and doing jobs with her dad.
Vaughan decided to return to education through Teagasc while teaching and also studying for a Master’s in education. Ellen completed a Level 6 Distance Green Cert at Teagasc, Navan, County Meath.
“I really wanted to learn more about the science behind farming,” Ellen states. “I used to work in a veterinary practice and I had a huge interest in animals and in farming, but I wanted to learn more about the science behind farming and learn how to apply things practically. It was a lot to take on, but to be honest, farming was my way of coping.”
Vaughan continues: “The actual course was really enjoyable. It was a small group of like-minded people meeting once a month, and it was great to get that hands-on experience. I think apprenticeships and alternative pathways are definitely the way forward. Even with teaching, you learn everything you need to learn through teaching practice. With the Green Cert, we were out on the farms applying what we had learnt in the individual farm context. That’s when you learn the most and retain the most information.”
Often under-represented in the agriculture and farming community, Vaughan is passionate about becoming a role model for women interested in agriculture – and for her students in particular.
“I felt so proud to win student of the year, especially representing female farmers,” Ellen comments. “When I went back into school after the awards ceremony, for the female students in my class to see a woman winning that and becoming a role model for my students, it felt amazing. I work in a rural school, so I’d like to think that if they’re interested in agriculture, having people like me as a role model, they will actually pursue it. The three category winners were all women this year, it was the first time ever for that to happen.”
The farmer has made some amazing connections through the organisation.
“Through Teagasc I joined an all-women’s discussion group. We meet up once a month and visit different farms. It’s a great opportunity to continue learning from others in the group,” says Vaughan. “I got involved with the group when I was doing work on the Green Cert. On the farm where we did our practical coursework, I met a young woman, Laura. She did the same course before I started. When we were doing our theory skills on her farm, I got chatting to her and she was setting the discussion group up at the time. She asked if I’d be interested and I haven’t looked back since.”
Ellen spoke about the importance of meeting other like-minded women: “It was fantastic that first day I was on her farm – it was the first day where I’d seen someone like myself farming full time at home with her father. It was actually really inspiring to see.
“It was really a game changer for me. I realised I had really doubted my abilities before, during the course, and thought I’d always be farming with my dad, but seeing Laura farming full-time by herself has definitely inspired me.”