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AgSoc ambition rooted in rural tradition

After 96 years, the Agricultural Society has remained true to its rural origins, writes Niall Hurson.

Founded in 1923, the Agricultural Society (AgSoc) at UCD is one of the oldest on campus, attracting more than 1000 student members and all the while generating over €50,000 for charity each year. A committee consisting of 28 members have their shoulder to the wheel, in charge of orchestrating the renowned AgSoc events with Aoife Bergin at the helm as the 2019/2020 auditor. The society is composed of predominantly Agricultural Science students but remains a diverse group with strong support from the nursing and engineering faculties to name but a few.  

The heart of the Agriculture and Food Science building happens to be located in the basement, in what is known as the tea shop. Here AgSoc members and UCD students can purchase the cheapest cup of tea and snack combo on campus, if not the country on sale at just €1, including free refills. The main artery of the building is the Ag common room which Auditor Bergin describes as “an area of respite, to drink tea, read the Farmers Journal and socialise.” The tea shop though modest in appearance can turn a pretty penny. In week five the total income for the five-day period was in excess of €1200, generating close to €700 for charity minus the cost of stock which is bought in at wholesale price. AgSoc events are equally as lucrative, with Bingo Loco generating nearly €6000 for charity and took place at the Talbot Hotel, Stillorgan, on October 16. 

Last year AgSoc raised €65,000 for charity. Teac Tom and St. Johns Ward Crumlin are this year’s charities and will receive a donation from AgSoc in May 2020, bringing conclusion to another year of fundraising efforts. Teac Tom is an initiative started by the Hayes family to support individuals and their families affected by, or contemplating suicide. The counselling service which is based in the south east has over 100 people pass through its door on a weekly basis. Bergin believes “within farming we have a mental health stigma. Through raising money for charities like Teac Tom students can feel more open towards their own mental health. These generous acts help us tackle this stigma early on, during our college life at UCD.” St. John’s Ward Crumlin is a children’s cancer ward with the aim to save young lives through research and providing top priority care. All funds raised this year will be split between the two deserved charities. 

For semester one AgSoc plan to host seven events in 10 weeks with a break for the last two weeks in consideration for exams. Directly before this exam break though, one of the biggest AgSoc events of the year will take place on November 13, Ag versus Vet boxing. The night will see 30 fighters face off in 15 individual fights, with students going toe to toe with reputation and bragging rights on the line. Agriculture Week (AgWeek) is one of the highlights of the year for AgSoc members. It falls on the third week of the second semester and offers a plethora of events with something for everyone. Events this year are to include a milk race, wellie walk, tractor race, auction in the clubhouse, Ags got Talent, 5-a-side, trad session in Ryans, and a headline act on the Thursday. 

The Agricultural Society is a diverse group, with members coming from all 32 counties of Ireland, evident on nights such as “county colours.” Similar to the School of Agriculture and Food Science, Agsoc in the past had a male majority. In the same shift as the faculty in which it is based, Agsoc has experienced the transition towards an equal split between the genders. Bergin feels “we have a different generation of Agriculture students coming through the college now. It’s a modern generation but firmly tied to rural ways.” It is these rural ways that constitute the foundation on which the Society is built upon, from inclusiveness to contributing towards the greater community, AgSoc remains true to these rural standards. 

The Agricultural Society is a community with its sleeves rolled up.