As Danny Doyle was driving to work, three months into his electrical apprenticeship, he looked out at the machinery passing along the road and realised he in the wrong seat.

“It was really like a kick in the teeth,” he says. “It was towards the end of harvest time in early September. I just remember looking into a field and seeing a combine while I was wearing all this construction gear. I just thought, no, I’m in the wrong seat here.”

Three years later (in 2023), after listening to his gut, the tillage farmer graduated from Kildalton and has just been named the Teagasc/FBD Student of the Year.

Growing up on a tillage farm in Lullymore, Co Kildare, Danny is a fourth-generation farmer and it’s always been a way of life for him.

“I never thought anything of it, growing up on the farm is all I ever knew. After the Leaving Cert, my friends were all going to college and respective things, so I thought maybe I wouldn’t rush back home, I’m only 18,” he says.

There was no pressure for Danny to go directly into farming so he decided on the apprenticeship.

“I said I would try an electrical apprenticeship and got into one of Facebook’s big data centres. I met great people there, but within the first week, I knew it was not right,” he says.

Making the decision to go home wasn’t easy as conversations had to be had about his position on the farm.

“I didn’t have to beg to come home because my dad knows he won’t be here forever. However, there were questions around the viability of it – it’s an extra wage that has to be paid every week and the margins are tight in tillage,” he says.

Danny emphasises that succession is an ongoing conversation that needs to be had on farms.

“I think some people think you sit down with a cup of tea and say, ‘right, we’re going to trash it all out now today’. It’s not, it’s a constant ongoing conversation. I’m still talking to my dad about different options for the future, it’s certainly not taboo. It is something that has to be talked about, from the very start,” he says.

Cementing a gut feeling

After deciding to farm at home full-time, Danny knew he needed to get his Green Cert. He started in September 2021 and farmed full time through the pandemic.

“At that point, seeing everyone else stuck in their house while I was here farming away, happy out doing what I love, reinforced that I made the right decision – no second thoughts,” he says.

In fact, doing the electrical apprenticeship cemented his decision to go into farming. “When I was doing my Leaving Certificate, my career guidance tracher emphasised the scope for job progression with the apprenticeship and the potential earnings. If I had stuck with it for five or ten years, I know for a fact I would have been on good money,” says Danny. “But being at home on the family farm, being the fourth generation, trying to carry on what my dad, my grandfather and great-grandfather built up, that is so much more important to me than any wage package.”

Choosing to study at Kildalton Agricultural College was a no-brainer for Danny as his cousin went there and he thought it was the best college from a tillage point of view.

“I did my bit of research; I went to the open days and met Tim Ashmore with my dad. It felt like the course was tailored to me, from a crops and machinery point of view, it’s very specific for what we’re doing on a tillage farm,” says Danny.

Danny Doyle pictured on the family farm in Lullymore, Co Kildare. \ Barry Cronin

He enjoyed the practical side of things as well as the theory in the classroom, but the highlight was carrying out his placement in America, where he worked for five months. “That completely broadened my horizons, I got placed on a family farm on the Kentucky and Tennessee stateline. They grow soybeans, wheat, barley and corn. Even though it’s very different geographically to Ireland along with their practices and standards, at the core is people farming together and that was so beautiful to see,” says Danny.

Since graduating last year, Danny has been working full-time on the enterprise with his dad Philip and uncle Brendan.

“I am just loving it, I feel like I haven’t worked a single day. We’re managing about 800 hectares, a lot of it is rented land stretching from North Kildare over to west Wicklow,” he says.

Although Danny sees a lot of negative press about the viability of farming for young people and the ageing population of the average farmer, he sees a bright future ahead. “I am positive, I know the numbers aren’t great at the minute and they are declining but there is a push to increase the tillage land. I’m delighted to be in this sector because I think for the next 10, 15, 20 years, the sector is only going to grow.

“As the environment becomes more important, I think it will become a real golden egg sector,” he says.

Student of the year

Sponsored by FBD, the awards ceremony took place on the 22 May. Fifteen graduates from the Teagasc QQI Level 6 agriculture, horticulture, equine and forestry training programmes in 2023 were shortlisted.

Danny received the overall Teagasc FBD Student of the Year, which on the night he dedicated to his granduncle’s brother Ned, who was a big part of the farm. Sadly, he passed away the day he did the interviews for the awards.

Speaking about this achievement Danny says, “It’s great, I am delighted but prouder for my parents, my grandmother and granduncles than for myself. I would be absolutely nothing without them and their support. When I came home from the apprenticeship, they allowed allow me to pursue my dream”.

Other finalists in the awards:

The part-time and distance education category winner is Cormac Rowe, from a mixed dairy and drystock farm in

Navan, Co Meath. The winner of the full-time other land-based enterprises category is Alana King from Ennis, Co Clare.


Conor McAweeney, Ballinamore, Co Leitrim

Cian Hourihane, Skibberreen, Co Cork

Enda Shanahan, Nenagh, Co Tipperary

Amy McGee, Drumkeeran, Co Leitrim

Aidan Lynch, Gort, Co Galway

David Stephenson, Hacketstown, Co Wicklow

Rachel Lacey, Strand, Co Limerick

Isabell Bourke, Westport, Co Mayo

Tadhg Hanley, Askeaton, Co Limerick

Ben Maguire, Mountnugent, Co Cavan

Leanne O’Donnell, Miltown Malbay, Co Clare

Charlotte Duff White, Ballinamult, Co Tipperary

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