Ciara O'Halloran 2019 Nuffield Scholar pitcured with Bison in Canada

Ciara O’Halloran is a 2019 Nuffield Ireland Scholar, who at the time of her Scholarship was working for her family’s oyster production and food tourism business Flaggy Shore Oysters in Clare. After selling the business, she is travelling around Canada, and is reminded of just how powerful the Nuffield network is.

The Nuffield Key

When you are awarded with a Nuffield scholarship, you are introduced to the core values of Humility, Respect, Integrity, Reciprocity, Diversity, Thought Leadership and Continuous Learning. You are also told by many experienced scholars that by completing a Scholarship, you are getting the key to a large global network of strong thinking minds and spare rooms, couches or floor space when you travel!

For me, in this past year, nothing has proven more true.

I became a Scholar in 2019 to research the use of food tourism and how it can be a tool to close the gap between the producer and consumer. I had an oyster and seafood business at the time and admittedly my knowledge was more around aquaculture and water quality than agriculture. But this was all about to change.

I fortunately got most of my travel done before Covid hit and furthermore, some scholars came to visit me and my business. During the pandemic lockdowns, we were heavily impacted for a few years as the tourism business we had created mainly to appeal to Americans dropped off a cliff along with the oysters we were supplying into the food services industry.

Yet, it was the quiet times and the headspace they provided that had the most lasting impact – for in this time we made as a family the very difficult decision in some ways and very easy decision in others to sell up and get out of the business. We sold the business last year, and since then I have been trying out that Nuffield key over in Canada.

It started with a simple email to a Scholar, Leona Watson, whom I had met very briefly at the CSC in Iowa. “Hey, I’ll be in the Yukon – let me know if you’d like to meet for lunch, or coffee or a beer”. Nuffield Scholars always make for frank, and interesting conversations I find. It got greeted with – do you need a job, there’s a car here and a place to stay when you need. That key is more powerful than I thought: even her family asked “uh… how do you know this person again?” “– Nuffield!”.

Fast forward a few months and I’m a bit further South, a mere 16 hours’ drive. Once again I message a Scholar through WhatsApp: Christoph Weder a 2019 Nuffield scholar that came to visit me just weeks before Covid hit to look at the Burren Life project and my business. Once again, I am greeted with – What are your plans? Do you want work?

So here I am, emailing this from British Columbia, currently working for Venator Ranch – a ranch with about 1400 cattle and 1400 bison, using regenerative farming practices. They have just completed building a processing plant on the ranch, ensuring the animals are bred, reared, slaughtered and packaged within a 3-mile radius, and they have created the brand Bison Guy for the meat. I can tell you it’s a long way from Flaggy Shore Oysters – the family business we sold last year -to Bison Guy, or so you would think.

When you are shortening the gap between producer and consumer by supplying directly to the end consumer and telling the story, actively educating while also working with the environment instead of against it – it’s not that different.

I just never had to worry about getting flattened by an oyster!!

You can read more about Ciara’s Nuffield study topic and download her full report here