McDonald's Progressive Young Farmer: Adam Cusick - 'The main purpose of the afternoon will be to bring children to the farm to showcase what agriculture has to offer'

In a new series for Farmers Guardian, the 11 new recruits on the McDonalds Progressive Young Farmer (PYF) programme. Each month we follow one of the PYFs to see what they are doing.

clock • 4 min read
McDonald's Progressive Young Farmer: Adam Cusick - 'The main purpose of the afternoon will be to bring children to the farm to showcase what agriculture has to offer'

In a new series for Farmers Guardian, the 11 new recruits on the McDonald's Progressive Young Farmer (PYF) programme. Each month we follow one of the PYFs to see what they are doing.

Before beginning my Progressive Young Farmer placement journey with McDonald's and Dawn Meats, I was entirely unaware of the vast opportunities available to everyone within the agricultural sector. I have always had a great interest in farming but did not know the correct career path for me, so when I first heard of the opportunity to work in one of the worlds largest food supply chains, I knew I had to apply.

Having left school after completing my GCSEs, I started studying engineering at the Northern Regional College (NRC) in Ballymena, County Antrim. I decided to make this move as I have a love for machines and automation. I really enjoyed my time there, but I knew that engineering was not the correct industry for me. So, taking the skills and knowledge I had gained in my two years at NRC I started a degree in Business Management at Queens University Belfast. Throughout my school years I never wanted to go to university, but with some guidance and persuasion from my parents I applied, and it was a great decision as it has widened my horizons and opened my eyes to the world of industry.

I previously never really knew the different array of jobs that are available in the agricultural sector. There are opportunities for all people from every walk of life. When most of us think of a farmer, there are certain stereotypes that come into our heads, but as the industry evolves to keep up with changing trends and consumer requirements so should our mind set towards the entire sector. Food is how we all survive and no matter whether you are eating a steak or an avocado, it is reliant on a farmers hard work.

Focusing on the opportunities for everyone, it gave me the idea for a project I am completing throughout the year, which has the title What are the opportunities or lack of, in the agricultural sector for people with disability?

A disability may not only be physical, but a person is considered to have a disability if they have a self-reported long-standing illness, condition or impairment, which causes difficulty with day-to-day activities. So, throughout the year my aim is to highlight both employment opportunities in the sector along with the rehabilitation benefits available within the industry.

I am currently in the process of organising a Diversity and Inclusion afternoon at Newford Farm, a demonstration beef suckler farm located in Athenry County Galway. The main purpose of the afternoon will be to bring children to the farm to showcase what agriculture has to offer. My hope is that there is a realisation that agriculture is a viable option for future employment no matter the physical or mental disability an individual may have. There will be limits to what this project can bring to the table but using these limits we will be able to create a framework for inclusive cultures for the industry.

Throughout my placement so far, I have been lucky enough to spend time both in factory and on farm. I began my time at head office, Grannagh, Waterford where I worked in the boning hall, dispatch, the lairage and technical departments. In my four-month stint here I was able to really appreciate the work that goes into creating a quality product for the customer, with a key focus on animal health and welfare and food safety. I then continued my journey to Carrolls Cross, which is the Dawn Meats site where the McDonalds burger patties are produced. I was amazed by the automation and lean production techniques in place here. I was lucky enough to work within every department here right from the raw material coming into the factory, through production, right to where the burgers are dispatched. Even spending some time behind the grill in the test kitchen.

I am currently working on the newly developed Dairy to beef farm in Tipperary. The farm is comprised of a share farm agreement between Dawn Meats and Shinagh Estates, with Teagasc signing a 15-year lease for the farm. The main focus on the farm is understanding how we can develop a robust, profitable system for dairy calf to beef production. Also, I have spent time at Newford Farm a beef demonstration farm in Athenry, County Galway. I was here during the calving season, giving me a great insight into the workings of a compressed caving programme. I will be heading back to Newford before the breeding season starts, where all the cows will be artificially inseminated to ease calving beef bulls. Both farms are part of the Signpost farm programme with input from Teagasc. The Signpost farm programme aims to achieve progress in reducing gas emissions from Irish agriculture. It also aims to improve water quality, maintain and improve bio-diversity and create rounded sustainable farming enterprises.

Overall, I have thoroughly enjoyed my time so far working within the McDonalds supply chain with Dawn Meats. I really could not recommend the placement enough to anyone wanting a fantastic insight into the vast global food supply chain.

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