R and the Girls, Circa 2010

Here we go….Mr. McDonnell: UNCOVERED. Well, not really uncovered…I wouldn’t go that far-at least not for the purposes of this blog anyway. Between cows calving and garden ploughing, I was able to corner R to sit down and answer a few questions that had been submitted by readers and a couple thrown in from me. {can you tell whose are whose?}

How on earth did you meet Mrs. McDonnell?

I met Imen when visiting my friend Aiden who is living in the States.  We got together a couple times for dinner and I was very intrigued. Let’s just say that there was a universal pull towards Imen and a very big WOW factor to say the least. She told me that her Dad was going to be her Valentine that year and so when I was leaving to go back to Ireland on the 12th of February, I arranged to have a large basket of flowers sent to her office for Valentine’s Day. The card with the flowers said, “Well, you’re my Valentine.”   I think that won her over a little bit.

What have been the challenges of marrying someone from another country/culture?

It has been a bit difficult for the Imen to settle in at times here and I can totally understand because her life is completely different from before and also because she lost her father in 2008 which was very hard on her. We are constantly working to strike the balance in bringing elements of both of our cultures into how we live our day-to-day lives here.  Her distinctiveness is also what I love about her. But honestly, the hardest thing would have to be accepting that fact that the word “awesome” is now frequently heard on the farm.

Tell us about the farm, what do you love about farming?

The farm is a family farm in which myself, brother and parents run the business. We specialize in dairy, free-range poultry and renewable energies. I have a great love for animals and the land. I‘m my own boss, which is brilliant. For me, there is a tremendous sense of pride that goes with farming and producing quality foods for the Irish marketplace.

What do you do for fun when you’re not working on the farm?

I work really long hours on the farm so when I have some time off I try to make the most of it. We have taken some brilliant holidays and there are many more to come… We all love the cinema so we try to go for a Sunday matinee and lunch on weekends. I play soccer on Tuesday evenings with a group of friends in the area and enjoy going sailing with my father when the weather conditions are good.  I am a big fan of gardening and we’ve just begun planting an organic kitchen garden which will be a family endeavour.

What is the best thing(s) about Ireland?

Guinness. Hurling. The relaxed pace of life. Irish pride. To put it simply, Ireland is my home.

What do you think of this blog?

I was pleasantly surprised when I first read the blog…. My wife has amazing talent for writing, a talent I’d love to have! It’s a funny yet fact-based blog that will inform you and keep a smile on your face. I am proud of her and really love it.

How is Ireland different from America?

The big thing that comes to mind is attitude. Bono once proclaimed that the main difference between Ireland and America is this: There is a huge, beautiful mansion on a hilltop. The American says “Someday I’m going to be that guy in that house.” The Irishman says, “Someday I’m gonna get that guy in that house”  Also, the weather is far nicer where Imen is from and the people seem to be more positive and are so open and friendly–especially when they realize you are Irish!

What is the biggest challenge facing farmers today?

Surviving poor costs for our products. For example, milk prices are the same now as they were in the 80’s, yet costs to produce have soared. Also, the more extreme weather conditions of late makes farming a constant challenge to be reckoned with.

What would you be doing if you weren’t farming?

That’s a hard question. I have a wide range of interests. I studied philosophy and history at University and am very interested in theories and universal laws. I’d love to write a screenplay. I’d like to learn more about economics and global business and get my MBA. When I was a boy, I wanted to become a zookeeper!

If Imen could persuade you to move to the USA what would you be doing?

Well, first she would have to promise to get VISA’s for all of my girls (cows) to go along.  But seriously, if that were ever the case (very doubtful), maybe I could farm or teach Irish history or open a real traditional Irish pub which would be Irish through and through from the turf in the fire to the Guinness in the glass…with poetry and politics and a regular named Paudy always sitting at the bar.

If you have any questions about R or the farm we would love to hear from you….

I am off for a long weekend in NYC….and next week is St. Patrick’s Day so fun times ahead. Have a great week!

Slan Abhaile,

Imen

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