The agri-food sector is central to Ireland’s economic recovery. It is our largest indigenous industry, contributing €26billion in turnover and enjoys continued export growth to over 175 countries. Crucially, it accounts for 170,000 jobs, which represents 9% of total employment and this prompted Deerpark CBS principal Mr. Kevin Barry to introduce Agricultural Economics to the school curriculum two years ago. The subject is offered by very few schools given the lack of qualified Agricultural Economics teachers both locally and nationally. Despite this, the first cohort of Deerpark CBS students to tackle the subject will complete the leaving cert in 2016. The school has earned an enviable reputation for its small class sizes and this learning environment has maximised the twelve Agricultural Economics students’ prospects for exam success. The subject is taught by Mr. Seán McCarthy and with eighteen years management experience in the Irish food industry he is well positioned to guide the students through the syllabus.
Along with the Deerpark CBS Transition Year students, the Agricultural Economics class visited the National Ploughing Championships in Ratheniska, Co. Laois last Tuesday. Given that the majority of the schools students are city residents; this afforded them a practical opportunity to appreciate why agriculture is often described as the foundation of Ireland’s society, economy and identity. The event attracted over 77,000 people on Tuesday and the Deerpark CBS students availed of this by interviewing farmers and food producers to fulfil the research component for their leaving cert Agricultural Economics projects.
President of the Irish Farmers Association Eddie Downey was very generous with his time when he met the Deerpark CBS students. He was particularly impressed when they conveyed aspirations of pursuing their studies at CIT and UCC where courses that include Agriculture, Food Marketing and Food Science offer a natural pathway to employment in the industry. Food Wise 2025 is a ten year strategy for the Irish agri-food sector that endeavours to create 23,000 new jobs over the next decade. Deerpark CBS is determined that its students will be positioned to take advantage of this.