Time is right for Odile’s Macra bid
ARKLOW’S ODILE EVANS IS RUNNING FOR TOP JOB IN MACRA NA FEIRME. AS SHE LAUNCHES HER CAMPAIGN, SHE SHARES HER VISION FOR THE ORGANISATION WITH DEBORAH COLEMAN
ODILE EVANS owes a lot to Macra na Feirme. At the age of just 23, she says it has given her many important life skills which have brought her to where she is today.
On Friday night, Odile formally launched her election campaign and over the next two months or so, will be contesting the upcoming election for national president of Macra na Feirme.
Having joined the organisation for young farmers straight out of school, Odile soon found herself given a job on the committee and she was hooked.
‘I grew up on a dairy farm South of Arklow and from a very young age I was interesting in the farm and the workings of it. At 17 I joined Macra and became club secretary within a month,’ Odile explains.
That year, Odile’s guild, Johnstown-Coolgreany, was named national Club of the Year, which was a great achievement for a young club just established in 2006.
‘It was great for the club and for the members, as all of the officers were quite young as well, maybe 17 and. My neighbour Sarah Merrigan encouraged me to join at the start and was on the committee then and is not the County Chairperson for Macra.’
Odile, a journalist with the Irish Farmers Journal by day, explains that she was ‘always an ambitious person’ and puts all her energy in when she has a goal in sight.
‘I studied agriculture in UCD and graduated with first-class honours and did my semester abroad. From there I went into my current job as a journalist. I always knew my life was going to be in agriculture but I didn’t know exactly what area,’ Odile says.
She credits Macra with giving her the chance to grow as a person and acquire many important life skills.
‘Taking on club role meant that I got a lot of training in different areas. I entered a lot of competitions, from sports, farm skills and debating. They put you outside you comfort zone and help to improve your confidence. You can have a role listed on your CV but when you get into any interview, it will show, that you have that experience. Macra members are that little bit more personally developed and able for the stresses and strains that might be thrown at them.’
The place of Macra in small communities, cannot be overstated, either.
‘It is a really good rural organisation, which is open to men and women aged 17 to 35. There is a lot of community involvement and Macra groups join in various events, for example entering a float in the St Patrick’s Day parade, which Johnstown Coolgreany does every year. Just getting out and meeting up with others once a week can do wonders for your mental health and it can help relieve the demanding nature of farming work.’
For Odile, improving conditions and agreements for Irish farmers is a priority and running for national president is a step towards this.
If elected, she will be the second woman ever to hold the two year term and she says that she believes the time if right for that now. ‘I DON’T see youth as a barrier and already, in Macra half of our national council is female. However, the time is right for a bit of colour in the organisation and I feel it would be a positive thing for young women to see a woman as national president. I’m here and I’m ready now, so why hang around for the sake of it?’
The role is full time, and if elected, Odile would have to take a break from journalism.
‘There are many issues that are of concern to farmers today, and particularly young farmers and that is what I will be focusing on. Farm incomes are quite low at the moment and many young farmers have difficulty with access to land and credit. These are two key issues and without these, it is very hard for a young person starting out to see a very stable future. I would be seeking to push that agenda if elected,’ Odile says.
‘The president is also tasked with building new relationships and maintaining old ones. I am in the unique position that I know a lot of the government ministers through my job so that is an asset.’
Since her launch, Odile says that she has been stunned by the support she has received.
‘I really have been blown away and I am delighted to see the momentum behind the campaign. I am bowled over by all the support and I am very grateful to those who are supporting me and to my family.’
Odile will on the hustings throughout February and March where she will hope to cover a lot of ground as club to club canvassing is not permitted.
‘It is one vote per club so they will have to decide which candidate they prefer and then the ballot is on April 4,’ Odile says.
Until then, she will be doing her utmost to reach as many members as possible in the hope of getting elected, a challenge it seems she is more than ready for.
Odile Evans with her parents Albert and Ann and brother Jano.