From a make-up career to dairy farming with dad

This Father’s Day, make-up artist turned dairy farmer Linda Hanbidge Cliffe, will work alongside her dad, Alan, and brother, Gordon, with their herd of Montbeliarde cows as normal.

It will be another busy day on the 140ac farm near Baltinglass for Linda who is mum to Zoe, aged three, and Elsie, eight months.

Growing up, Linda spent more time helping her mum, Rosemary, out in the family’s B&B than on the farm.

A career in farming wasn’t on the agenda as far as she was concerned. “I went to IADT and studied make-up for film and theatre, and I worked as an outreach co-ordinator with the Young Irish Filmmakers in Kilkenny. However, I lost my job in February 2011, due to funding cuts,” she said.

As my brother Niall was getting married to an Australian woman, I returned home to help my parents prepare for the wedding.

“My parents then went to Australia for a month and I decided that I wouldn’t try to get a job until after they returned.”

Linda said she wasn’t daunted by running the farm while her parents were away as Gordon, who was attending Kildalton college at the time, was home at weekends and she could easily contact her dad for advice. Her uncle and other relatives also live close by.

“It was a massive change for me but the fact that dad had confidence in me to take over kept me going. Then I had to ask them if I could stay on. It was a big decision for Gordon who had been planning to farm by himself.”

Linda’s husband, George, also had to relocate from south Kilkenny to Wicklow, where the family live in her grandparents’ house on the farm.

With Linda’s parents living in a newly-built house on the farm with Gordon, the partnership became official in 2015.

Their roles naturally evolved. “Gordon does the machinery work; I do all the paperwork and AI and dad does a fair amount of the milking – although we both milk.”

It’s been a very positive experience, according to Linda.

“Anyone who knows dad will tell you that he is very easy going and diplomatic. We all sit around our big kitchen table and discuss things,” she explained.

Everyone’s opinion is always taken into account. Dad is always open to ideas and doing different things. He might be the first to tell you ‘I told you so’ when it doesn’t work out but he will always give things a go.

Being a female farmer has never been an issue for Linda in dealing with other farmers but having young children has meant she has had to take a step back from milking while breastfeeding.

“Dad and Gordon have been a great support while I took a step back from milking and just concentrated on: paperwork; phone calls; the management of the new building parlour and shed.”

Having been a late convert to farming, Linda is revelling in the chance to work with family.

It’s a great lifestyle and it’s lovely that my children get to spend so much time with their grandparents and uncle. I really enjoy it and don’t miss my previous life all that much.

Meanwhile, Father’s Day will see all the usual jobs being done, with her dad refusing to allow a fuss, Linda said.