Gurteen College will kick off a “year of celebration” on September 3, to mark 75 years since it opened its doors as an agricultural college.

Past students, including some from the college’s early years, will have the opportunity to reminisce though photographs and record from Gurteen’s archives as far back as 1947.

The event on September 3, is sponsored by FBD, while the launch of the anniversary year is sponsored by ABP.

Image source Gurteen College
The first crop of Gurteen College students in 1947

The history of the college predates its actual opening. For a number of years before that, a group of farmers and people from the methodist community identified the need to do something that would help preserve and enhance rural communities.

They arrived at the idea to establish a college that would aim to demonstrate best agricultural practice and provide opportunity for young people.

The founders worked with the Methodist Council of Ireland to set up Gurteen College as a charitable trust.

In 1946 Gurteen house and farm was purchased, funded through donations. The college welcomed its first students the following year under Wesley McKinney, the first principal of Gurteen College.

From the beginning, residential accommodation was offered, enabling students from around the country to attend.

From its earliest days, the college placed an equal focus on both practical agricultural skills and classroom theory.

The college has, since 1947, been both co-educational, catering for both male and female students, and multi-denominational, offering education to people of various religious backgrounds.

Image source Gurteen College
Gurteen College students at work in 1950

Over the last 75 years, Gurteen College has developed a reputation as one for Ireland’s leading agricultural colleges, with its graduates active in various parts of Ireland’s agriculture and agri-food sectors.

Many former students are also farming in their own local communities across the country, providing employment; running sustainable businesses; and supporting their local communities.

Several of Gurteen’s graduates have also become involved in industry, farm organisations and national politics.

Today, the college works closely with Teagasc, the Education and Training Boards (ETBs) and the Technological University of the Shannon (TUS) in the providing agricultural training.

The number of students there studying the Teagasc Level 5 and Level 6 agriculture course continues to grow, a course that Gurteen College describes as its “beating heart”.

The college has also delivered courses to help Bord na Móna staff retrain and upskill.

This academic year will see the first group of Level 8 Agricultural Science and Sustainability students at Gurteen, through an agreement with TUS.

Gurteen College said it “recognises that the world is changing and the demands on farmers and landowners will also change”.

For that reason, the college said, “sustainability in all its elements will be at the forefront of our future activities”.

At present, Gurteen College features a 1,000ac estate, workshops, a 250-cow dairy unit, an 80-cow suckler unit, a 450-ewe sheep flock, and 115ac of tillage.

The estate also has significant areas of less-productive land, with native woodland, forestry, a lough, and significant areas of bog.

Gurteen College is currently working with an architect to create a campus “masterplan” for high-quality classroom and teaching spaces, with designs in place for a new teaching block.

This year the college will create a grove of 75 native trees to mark its 75-year history.

The college said: “Each of the 75 native trees represents a year for Gurteen’s proud history. The grove also provides a tangible link to Gurteen’s commitment to environmental sustainability.”