1: Getting started?
When radio licenses were given out in 89/90, the head guy in WLR, Des Whelan, asked if I would be interested in doing a farm show. I was working in Waterford Foods. They said no problem. I said I’d do it for six months.
That’s 32 years ago so it’s been a long six months. I went to Rockwell Agricultural College, we had the family business and the initial plan after Waterford Co-op was to go back to that but I never did.
2: Why you?
Back then, Larry Sheedy was the PR guy for Waterford foods and I was his go to guy for ploughing, shows, quality awards, before we had our own full time corporate affairs with Michael Patton in the early 90s.
I went full time into it then in the mid-90’s. I’ve seen Waterford Co-op go to Waterford Foods, to AWG [Avonmore Waterford Group] to Glanbia and now to a new entity before the ploughing.
3: Best work?
[Covering] the development of the agri industry and getting the public to know what’s happening. The change has been unbelievable and being part of that through the radio programme, speaking to farmers and experts involved.
How farmers have embraced the challenges, trailing show, protected urea, ASSAP, solar panels, biodiversity, from discussion groups to signpost farms.
4: Interview highlight?
I’d say that Ray MacSharry always stands out as an unbelievable interview. He was an amazing commissioner and highly regarded at EU level. I joined the guild [of Agricultural Journalists] very early on.
He was a guest speaker one year and I got a one to one interview with him and I found him a very intriguing and very informative guy.
5: Interview disaster?
There’s no standout interview that I had to end abruptly or was ended abruptly on me. I try not to get too involved with politics.
Obviously there was some very difficult ones around the time of the merger [Avonmore Foods plc and Waterford Foods plc merged to form Avonmore Waterford Group (AWG) plc in 1997].
That was a difficult time but I try to keep it as balanced as I can within the programme and we are still here after 32 years.
6: Interviewee wish?
Bill Clinton is a guy I have huge respect for. He did huge work for the peace process, I think his role can never be underestimated. John Hume too.
7: Moment in time?
Milk quotas going, that was huge. There was a handbrake on for so many years, guys were in strait jackets. That was a real game changer for the industry, it really was.
8: Has radio changed?
Despite all the technology radio remains an unbelievable medium. With apps, people can be listening to you inside and outside of Ireland.
It’s an easier medium for people to have in their jeep, in their parlour, on their phone. How farmers have embraced technology that has really staggered me.
9: Dinner party guests?
Mairead McGuinness would be up there. What she achieved inside and outside the agri-industry and her knowledge knows no bounds.
Alan Gillis, I always found very interesting as a politician and MEP and then TJ Maher, stands out as a man I have great respect for. He really was one of those great leaders.
10: Regrettable changes in ag?
During the expansion we took out hedgerows in the country initially and now we are paying guys to put them back in. We jumped too quickly to change the infrastructure of the Irish landscape.
Thankfully that is being remedied but it will take a while to get back to where we were. I think it was overcooked and that was a bad one.
11: Positive changes in ag?
The awareness of the environment with more and more farmers embracing its importance. More importantly, I think the general public are embracing how important farmers are for the food chain.
12: Keeping ag on the radio?
Farming is a food industry and keeping people reminded of that. Food has to be produced and food can be produced in Ireland. Not getting too technical which will turn off the non-farming community.
There will always be negativity. When we had the vegan wave, people wondered where it would end up but people are entitled to look at all aspects of farming.
I respect all views, as long as that’s not disrespecting another industry. Healthy debate is no problem as long as it is balanced.
13: How do we keep Farmers’ voices on air?
A farmer talking telling their story has huge huge huge huge power. Not all farmers are willing and able to come on but when they are they’re unbelievably passionate and they know it from the ground up.
I remember one year coming live from the ploughing and it was getting loud. The great Ray Ryan and Sean McConnell and a few others were in full swing in the media office.
Trying to get a programme together live, getting people in and out, you wouldn’t believe what was happening behind the scenes. It was something else. We managed to get over the line but I’d never try it again I can tell you.
We started with a half nine on a Saturday and it continued as my flagship so I’m delighted with that prime slot. It works for farmers, having the breakfast after milking the cows and for non-farmers - that broader audience.