Talking about Irish Dairy Farmer in Kenya with Paula Hynes (Episode 212 Podcast Transcript — Grounded by the Farm)

August 3, 2021

Get the audio, see photos, show notes, etc on this episode at Getting a Whole New Perspective on Farming and on Life — An Irish Dairy Farmer Goes to Kenya!



people, cattle, literally, chief, ladies, big, women, ireland, laughing, eat, gave, william, boys, janice, piece, walk, experience, kids, home, animals


Grounded by the Farm, Paula Hynes

Grounded by the Farm  00:01

Food is more than just what’s on our plate. It’s the places where it’s grown. It’s the people who grow it and so much more. Join me, Janice person, your host on Grounded by the Farm every other week as we talk about the foods we love. Hey, everybody, this is Janice. And I alluded to the fact that we would be talking to Paula Heinz. And this is that episode now. So in our last episode, we talked to Peter about their dairy farm in Ireland, and we talked all about my love of boozy butters. And all those things. And I’ve had so many people talk to me about carry gold in the last period of time, it’s been funny how many people are avid fans of it that are some specific better, they’re like me, I definitely since the love of butter. This time, we’re gonna talk very little about dairy, though, we’re going to be talking about a period of time for Paula in 2017, where she was able to go to Kenya, and she was able to spend some time with the Messiah people. And I just want to talk to her about what she was able to do their, what she was able to experience. I know a lot of farmers love to see sort of how operations work in a different part of the world, or even a different part of our country, we get really intrigued with small differences. But this was pretty massive differences.

Paula Hynes  01:30

Am I right? It sure was, it was the polar opposite of what I’m used to here in Ireland on believable experience, it completely changed my whole perspective on life, it was definitely the best thing I have done for a long, long time.

Grounded by the Farm  01:46

And I know the experience was in 2017, but you’re still in communication with people, they’re in Kenya, right?

Paula Hynes  01:54

They’ve become members of your extended family. Most definitely, I might have them two or three times a week, very close to William, he would have been the main arranger in the documentary with me, myself. And Peter actually sponsored him to go to university. So he’s in his final semester there No. And also one of the ladies, my ob got very, very friendly with her. We couldn’t speak to each other because she couldn’t speak English. And obviously, I couldn’t speak my feet. But you know, we just connected on a deeper level and naturally didn’t need to keep we didn’t need to speak, she was going through a bit of a rough patch, she’s nine kids, we actually help send her in nine kids to school as well. I’m in touch with them all the time.

Grounded by the Farm  02:30

I can imagine the difference in raising children in Ireland and the choices you’re able to make for your kids versus the choices people have for some of their children in Kenya is very tough. It is very tough. Unlike, you know, over there, they have to see how many codes they have to sell to choose between, which are how many of their kids can go to school, usually it’s the male population of their gets the preference to go to school and the girls are left at home, it would be completely for us to hear where it’s you know,

Paula Hynes  03:00

the men are the hierarchy out there, and the women are just kind of home. But like, the strange thing about hers is like the women do all the masking, they do all the cooking, they get all the firewood, they build their houses, you know, like they’re actually doing 90% of the work up there. Thankfully, since 2017, things have moved on become slightly easier for the ladies. So that’s good. There’s improvements happening the whole time. I think I myself was a big eye opener to them.

Grounded by the Farm  03:27

I’m sure you were we didn’t explain the show that you were on and sort of the impetus of you being there. So do you mind sharing that because maybe people want to look online and see if they have access to watch it?

Paula Hynes  03:39

Yeah, so back in 2017 nerve tomohisa. For Pete one, the Farmer of the Year here I was approached by a production company in Dublin that they were going during this three part documentary series called the harvest harvest. And they wanted a dairy farmer, fishermen and forester. So they asked me what I would have liked. They said they’d love all female parents female to do the leads, but they could only get female farmers. So I auditioned and there was loads of other women audition, gender kinda was a whole process that did I think three or four interviews. And I knew nothing. All I knew was that it was far a documentary in Africa and it would be involving farming. I knew no more things. The end of August, early September, I got the phone call to say that they have had picked me. And then the panic said because I didn’t think for one second that I would have got picked to do. Like I never traveled anywhere in my own the last place. I had been previously that with our honeymoon, which was 17 years previous, like a very good Cork City on my own. So like the thought of traveling 7000 kilometers off to Africa was daunting, but again, too much of good an opportunity not to do it. So in fairness, the kids all rallied around the messages Do you have to all like it’s it’s a no brainer. Thankfully I did go. And all I knew was that I was going to Kenya. So and it was only when It was literally only when I touched down in Kenya, and at the what we stayed at a hotel in Nairobi, the first place when they said that it would be a massive trade that I would be spending my time with. In hindsight, it was actually amazing because I didn’t go do the whole Google thing. Google, I think so it was everything I did. And everything I saw was on a first come basis, which I think dope better for Indians. Because I think if I had Google this and looked into the depth of it, I probably would have shaved myself going up there, like,

Grounded by the Farm  05:32

it would have been so intimidating. And I was lucky enough to watch this show. So this was done as a documentary. So there’s a film crew that that plays along and watches you, but I didn’t see them helping you. But William was your big helper.

Paula Hynes  05:47

You know, William was my main translator, you know, like it was literally three hours outside of Nairobi, literally open the back. So nowhere, I mean, the roads were just mud roads. And if they did get heavy rains out there, which they occasionally do, like they can just literally wash away the road. And the village that I was staying in was called map Russia. So the hostess consistent, it’s like they call it the poor mess or one family would live in, they have kind of four or five little warmers inside there and in an area for their cattle or their sheep, then they’d have a big porn fence around this, to keep the likes of hyenas and elephants and things. So all the coals would come in at nighttime, and all the sheep as well for protection. So there was two lots of different families living there. So there was a nice dinner, there was 40 or 50 people there. And the kids were, oh my god, the kids were amazing. They just stole my heart straightaway. But even the minute I got out of the Jeep, I could hear I had I walked over the jeep and I walked up to the village up to the little warmers, and I could hear the lady singing and sound. And they’re like, the masks are big into singing and doing these special dances. So that’s all I could hear rose walking up and it was just a totally relaxed me straightaway there were so lovely and so welcoming. And they gave me lovely bits of jewelry that they make themselves as well straightaway. So, you know, I instantly fell part of the whole thing. So it was really nice. The kids were very, very fascinated with my long blonde hair. They kept touching it and they were because majority of them were just kind of don’t they don’t have any hair or that every tight cornrows and some of maybe the older ladies but like they were just completely fascinated with the color of my skin and they want to hear that I have.

Grounded by the Farm  07:27

I’ve had that unique experience in a few places. My sister lived in Japan a long time and she’s blond and blue eyed. So I’d always see people mesmerized by her. But when I went to India as a redhead with, you know, my skin is very bright white, it’s bad in the sun. And people there were, especially in the smaller villages, not used to seeing somebody like me in their mitts. And so it’s a very unique experience, part of the Boma you were living in that the village you were living in. They also have cattle. You said the cattle come in at night. Yeah, it was the hardest harvest in part because of drought or what was going on. That made life so hard.

Paula Hynes  08:10

There was a massive drugs on there, when I got there, there hadn’t been ringing in over 12 months. So the cattle it like there was very little for them to each very little for them to drink. Because a lot of the rivers are real like they, the way they do it is the younger boys would take the catalog kind of grazing for a couple of hours every day with them and protect them against wild animals. And then they come back home to the bottom of the nation. Like I had the first day I went out with the boys with the cattle, which was the first in massage history as well that women aren’t normally allowed to do this because you know, they wouldn’t be capable of doing what I did anyway. And like the stuff the calls reaching them mean like you couldn’t even start even grasp to me just look like read something. I mean, they had to walk for nearly six, seven hours just to keep finding bits and pieces to eat. And at one stage we did come across a river but like there was even very little water in the river at that stage. So they just literally have to keep roaming until they can find them off to fill the cattle butcher. I mean, there was no filling them because it just there wasn’t food there for them. That was the hardest part of that whole experience means the coast would actually just drop down with the hunger and they can’t draw those a couple of them we would have had to stand up or we’d have to help them to stand up. They’re just so weak, like even the first couple of days over 13 times four or five coast age. And that was that was a killer for me because you know, they get to the stage where they can’t do anything for them. They can’t even lift them, so they just literally leave them there today. Outside the Boma joy at least here we can call it that

Grounded by the Farm  09:38

image of a downed cow is something I think dairy farmers have all had to deal with a downed cow. But there’s always this hope that you can save them and there’s always different things that you can do. When you’re in the US or in Ireland. People there just don’t have the resources available right

Paula Hynes  09:56

like if you don’t have water and you don’t have food and They don’t have the tractor with the hip clamp to lift them up. And you know, the, there’s no vets there that you can bring out to put them down humanely. So unfortunately, they’re like when they go to that stage where they are too weak to even stand or for even asked to help them to stench then or they’re just put outside the moment and they’re just left there to die if they’re willing to. And usually what would happen is a hyena would come in the middle of the night or a pack of hyenas. And they were just Yeah, that’d be the hyenas feed for the couple of days, sweetie,

Grounded by the Farm  10:28

every day, so hard to watch given that was that you’re used to be able to do something more dramatic to help the cattle live. You’re not used to get them getting in that spot. Right? It was horrible. I understood. It looks like you were able to, in some ways gain the trust of the chief of the group you were with. Yeah. Is that right?

Paula Hynes  10:52

Yeah, in a big way. It was, he actually didn’t come near me. For the first like I did. The best thing about it was I didn’t physically know wash meter, I set a series of tests every day, but I didn’t know what task I was doing on any given day. I only found out that morning. So like the chief had set up these tasks, he didn’t actually come near me for the first couple of days at all, he just couldn’t watch. We didn’t speak at all. So the first task was to go out with men grazing the cattle that did cause a bit of controversy with the ladies because they gave me a hunting knife which usually only masculine men are allowed to carry. So they did give me one that I couldn’t that I wore that I had with me but then like it was funny as we were walking around with the cattle another former a lady saw me with the knife and even mental issues or whatnot. The lads were telling me afterwards that waist woman way way she got this knife, she’s she’s not she’s not she shouldn’t be having this knife, blah, blah, blah. But then the following day, the dress I went with the ladies, that was you know, talk of kind of an hour to to break the ice with them because they were put out because I had gone out with the boys with the capital and because I had the money, but thankfully that the next day we went to, to a forest to cut on timber, so I could build my own manyata which is my own mud house. They gave me a machete as well. And we had to walk four kilometers to the forest and could literally cut the timber going off to trees, which was an experience in itself because they handled coordination in a shed no me. But thankfully, we got there. Those women are like warrior women. I mean, like they can climb up trees, like monkey, they’re unbelievable. We all cut down the timber and when we’d agreed laughs or people kind of jealous actor and you literally carry the timber back in your head then back to the warmer and that afternoon then we start to dig your foundations for moneta. And we really bonded that if we’ve great fondness because they were laughing their heads off at me to try to bend over with the machete cutting over the foundations with Michelle, you never seem so funny.

Grounded by the Farm  12:44

There are a lot of life skills that you You didn’t need to develop in Ireland that came in really handy there. Like being able to climb a tree is not something I generally need in my day to day. As a child, I probably you know, I did that as a child, I can remember it fondly. But today, if I needed to climb a tree to get wood down, God helped me. I would be featured on TV for some laughing video kind of mockery. So I can imagine that the kinds of skills they needed to build houses, these women have just picked them up lifelong lessons. Right. And you had to pick them up kind of on hand. So it would be a bit funny to watch early labor. Yeah,

Paula Hynes  13:25

yeah, it was. But like there were so helpful, like, I mean, I think there’s only one or two of the lead. They were like there was one or two of the ladies could speak English, or like they were very, very slow to communicate with me because we still are trying to build up the relationship because they really were annoyed about the day before but to be fair to them by the end of the day, we were all on the same page. Now they really showed me how to do everything. And they explained it to me by doing if you know what I mean? Yeah. speaking to me, we came on our back to the warmer like the maybe chai tea that’d be a big thing is the chai tea. But of course they thought I was fierce weird altogether, because they all have sugar in their chai tea, whereas I don’t take sugar in my tea at all. Like they will eat spoons. And of course, they thought it was the right word one that I was drinking with no sugar at all. And it was the day after then when someone had reported back to the chief that I had fulfilled all these tasks and I had done to the I suppose the standards that he was expecting, I suppose I was then invited to go to one of his wives monitors and cooking dinner, which is a big thing. So I was able to cook for the cheese. And I actually went into his manyata and F dinner with him and William and William’s mum. So that was that’s the first night I met the chief and spoke to him and sure we had a great laugh. I was asking him to know about it. Oh god, what was the later two ways and he was all your shirts could crack and sure he’s meeting kids between the two wives and don’t think he could speak good enough English so we had we had a few laughs along the way as well. Truthfully.

Grounded by the Farm  14:55

He said you cooked for him. I remember that the meal did not look I’m elaborate one.

Paula Hynes  15:02

Yeah, that was another shock to the system. So the meal consisted of. So these monitors, they cook in the monitors, and there is no chimney, or nothing smoke ups that’s literally cooking on an open fire inside the monitor. So they handed me a tomato, and she was gonna chop the whole tomato on one slice. So one sliver of commercial, they also give me a million, which was like, if I was home, I chop the whole lot in. But no, I can only take one sliver of that. So that into a big scoop of fashio. But it’s the heritage layers that they use. And literally, then it’s just race. So the one sliver of tomato, and the ones who were wrong into the labor, the race, and that was what it consisted of. And the chief then gets the biggest portion. And depending on where you are in the trip, your portion gets smaller, He always gets fit first, and then get that first.

Grounded by the Farm  15:50

Yeah, it’s a very different culture. But it’s so neat to be able to learn from it directly from people and and understand and respect their beliefs and the way they do things. And I can understand the the question of trust, after you’ve been able to do something that women there don’t typically do I can, I can see how that would happen even in our own homes, right? When we let one kid do something the other kids get do. And the kids all look at you like, What do you mean? So I could Oh, yeah, I can understand making you earn that trust from them

Paula Hynes  16:24

individually? Oh, totally. I mean, it had to be done. And I mean, their way of life is very, very different to our way of life. And there’s a pecking order over there. That’s just their culture. And I made sure that I respected that. And like anything that I was asked to do, I wholeheartedly put my whole heart and soul into it, because there’s no way I would have wanted to annoy anyone or disrespect them more. So like anything that was thrown at me, I gave it 110%. And of course, there was that pitch of me going for a non compete the main dissatisfaction of me not fulfilling these tasks as well. No. Because I am the sort of person I don’t like being told that I can’t do something but tell me something. And I guarantee you that I will try twice as hard to make sure that I did.

Grounded by the Farm  17:08

I totally understand we’re competitive and my family to one of the pieces is the cattle there are for milk as well as they have other animals that they’ll use for meat. On rare occasions, we do mind explaining how they access sort of the food and sustenance from the animals because it was a complex equation that

Paula Hynes  17:32

look like good, very rarely eat Nish. It’s mainly rice dishes, and they might have fried cabbage, even always, depending on the money that’s available for the week, they’d have kind of fried cabbage and the main niche they would use would be course me. And they mostly don’t seem to eat beef at all at all. So like for where we can walk into a chemist here for an hour and supplements do we get a butler stuff or we can take a tablet over there they do. bloodletting This consists of I suppose you pick the strongest code that would be there. And Chief, we get a bow and arrow and he put the arrow into the whole theme, the couple of the lights behold in the code, and they’d get closed, straight or closing and they drink it and so I had the absolute total privilege of being offered a cup of this blood to tray. And of course all the fellows in the background. The young boys were born smirking and laughing and cheering or she was not going to drink at all. Which of course I didn’t want to be disrespectful to the chief because he was sitting right next to me. So yes, I did drink pose blood. And then one of the lovely things I got to experience over there was the chief said it was actually his birthday one of the days I was up there. So there was a big celebration for his birthday grandpa had actually Six Wives and lots of kids. He was such a lovely lovely man and totally away from me with open arms as well. for his birthday the sacrifice to gosh I thought there was a god picked and I was able to normally Tony the boys and the men are able to go out and slaughter the gorge brave is allowed to go and observe this process. So the ghost was sacrificed and they slit his trash. That was kind of quick and painless really. But they collected the blood from the trash as well and proceeded to chop up the gold is false. Bush wasn’t one single piece of that golf with that like every single business was used in some shape or form. And then while they’re cooking goes to the boys actually miraculously originated fire that they themselves and cook some of the nice and next thing the chief called me over and he goes oh, you have to try this polar thing. So was the goat blood after coagulating so we just captured with a knife and he handed me a piece of this all like like it literally was like a piece of liver. So of course William was looking at me. Yeah, right. But I did again I swallowed it. And no, it was great. Blood no was very, very salty. It was fine. And then sure I had to eat some gold with the beam and then I had to go then the women were looking for me so I had to go over to the women’s place. Because the men and women don’t eat together normally. Yeah, so then I had to go over to eat some goals with the women. And then I got this huge honor of sitting down face to face, just me and the chief to eat. And we had the ribs of the God, like that was a huge, huge honor because it just doesn’t happen. He doesn’t even eat. He never, he never eats, usually a woman or he’d never eat meat, but his voice. So that was nice. So we had to know he was asking me about farming Ireland, and I was, I had some photographs of him that I had brought with me. And sure he was astonished with the green grass and the colors. And that was really, that was really something to be able to sit down face to face and have a one on one meal with him

Grounded by the Farm  20:40

looking at the photos of the animals in that video with you. Drought hard lives. Compared to the dairy cattle you’re used to it really is a shocking difference. Yeah, animals, physical entity, right. And so I’m certain I’m certain it would be hard. Just like it’s hard for us to understand being in that big of a drought, it would be equally hard to to understand that much prosperity. Yeah, I mean, that would be reflected in our photographs of our farms. Now that green grass,

Paula Hynes  21:17

it’s just so hard to comprehend, like, there was one coal, they took me over to look at it and her got injured, and it needs to be stitched. Or like obviously, they couldn’t afford vertical stitching or middle and or like Bush, it was funny. It was like something in some ways, our cultures were similar. Like it was like arland, back in the 1900s. To the 1920s. Show. They had stitched it up with a stick point. And it use ashes to put on it to stop it getting infected, when that’s something that would have happened to your dump with years ago. But I suppose the worst thing for me was I got the job of taking to post to the market, which is a party of kilometer walk, like there’s no cattle boxes, no trucks out there to take them. Again, I was the first woman in history of the mass I ever to do this was the walk itself was fine. It was amazing. Everyone was laughing going, Oh, she’s not gonna do it. Or didn’t I was asked after all, I bet you’ve got a bet you got into the Jeep with the camera crew, I genuinely didn’t. Because again, I had a point to prove to these fellows that women are more than capable of doing what you do. But the iPhone got the toughest thing, like you’d be walking along with your coals and bang, one of them just drops and you have to leave it there. There’s you can’t do anything perish. And they literally just leave them there at the side of the road. And you’re walking down as you want. Like we came across the zebra that was just short at the side of the road. You know, that was the hardest aspect of it. For me sitting down was just doing just all from a lack of water and a bit of food. And I’m thinking at home to nolleke wheatgrass in abundance. Yeah, well, most of the time. Minar would like then another day, there was a co had a calf and the chief came back on evening goes oh, you have to go lose this pole. So I said Graham, but like, the poor calf was drinking as well. And like because there’s no food. She wasn’t producing the movie she should have been producing selected carefully, carefully. For me. It was taking over half a liter for him. Yeah. And I was thinking, oh my god, like my calves at home are getting six to eight litres of milk a day in order to get as much as they wanted. They have not they have here. My calls get as much press as they want. And like this poor misfortune here is trying to feed the feed the kids and the family and also feed her her baby herd and calf. But that was the toughest thing for me. Is that the animals?

Grounded by the Farm  23:30

Yeah, yeah. As I watched the video of it, I thought, you know, it’s just heart wrenching. And yet such an amazing opportunity. Like you said at the beginning, how many people have been able to really see how the other side lives in a way that you can grow to understand it instead of as a picture show off in the distance. You’re there in the midst of it.

Paula Hynes  23:54

Yeah, that was like I could never put into words, the feelings that I had out there. I was so lucky to be literally dumped in the middle of this mass I train and got to experience everything firsthand how they’re doing it. Like there was nothing pre planned. Like obviously they had a plan on what he wanted me to do every day, but like everything was totally legit. There was no special treatment. I mean, I didn’t wash myself for three weeks. There was no showers. There’s no toilets. Thank God for baby wipes. I brought baby wipes with me. Like, that was literally no I had big I had my own clothes, obviously. But like, while I was there, they wanted me to dress their clothes. So like, I had two sets of messy clothes, which they gave me so like you wear one for a week you wash it on a Saturday, you wear the other one like you two sets of clothes. And that was dip like so like everything was just like I mean, you can’t pay for that. I mean, this was a proper, real experience to know. And like I’ve just felt so privileged to be to be able to experience it that way. It’s like you couldn’t get that on the tour straight.

Grounded by the Farm  24:56

Yeah, I agree. And I just can’t wait to go back there again. Yeah, and I think your family, you all want to be able to have the experience if he can swing it. Is that right?

Paula Hynes  25:06

Yeah, like my surgeon Pete should have gone last year, but you would call that we couldn’t, I suppose. Look, it depends on what we’re calling is gonna call in what way things are out there. The numbers are high enough up there. William is actually graduating from university next July. So the aim at the moment is to go out for his graduation, July 2022, hopefully, because also there has been loads of new babies added to the family since I’ve been there. And looking forward to meeting them. And you know, looking forward to meeting the kids that like there was William sister Greta is like she was only four when I was there. 2017 like she showed me how to make goats like I mean, she was a rock star overtones. It was to make the gotten super rich our time. And to know like, she’s the same age as my youngest. No, Georgina, like, so can we go back and meet all them. And also she since I was there, like, the chief has really stepped up to the mark with regards to being more respectful of the ladies, Ray, and Joe, things have changed out there. We’ve got to go to school, which is amazing. So there is something regarding squad to school as opposed to just all boys. That’s a huge, huge achievement. And also, like, boy has her own little business going no, and she cannot grow on money.

Grounded by the Farm  26:15

That’s fantastic. It’s a big difference in her life.

Paula Hynes  26:18

No, I do support her when I do help her with the kids go to school, but like she is now in a position where she can feed her own kids. She’s not relying on her husband, she looks after them herself. And they’re just after stepping up to the plate as well and making themselves being hard, which is nice. And things are general they’re on the up over there. That’s great. I just hope they’ll be able to keep up the momentum wish.

Grounded by the Farm  26:38

Yeah, yeah. It’s amazing. Well, I appreciate your talking with us about it. I think so many of us have these pictures of these beautiful Messiah, people in our minds from, you know, National Geographic or some things we’ve seen on TV. And it’s nice to get the added real kind of views that you add.

Paula Hynes  26:59

Yeah, like they have such beautiful jewelry as well, that they make themselves out of these tiny beads. And like there’s different pieces of jewelry for representing where you are in rank in the trade as well. To know whether you’re married or whatever. Oh, yeah. And like Yeah, yes. They made like they when I even when my second piece went back for the when I took piece over to meet everyone. They had made some beautiful bits for me because I was there was very, they’re lovely to have. And the chichi was so impressed as well, he gave me a beautiful messy name. So that was that’s lovely to have them to charge her. So


what’s your Messiah name

Paula Hynes  27:31

then? Neff Sula, and it mean just sort of mean Scylla

Grounded by the Farm  27:35

I mean, I have no idea. It means winner. Fantastic. So so it’s a little bit of a saying of based on your work at the market, taking the cattle to market

Paula Hynes  27:47

Actually, he was very impressed with that. But I made a lot of killing myself for collapsing renting so

Grounded by the Farm  27:54

well, thank you so much. I’ve got some video that we’ll put with this on the website, because I think people will want to see it through and I will make sure we grab a photo or something from that just so people can get a good look at it. Because what an amazing story. People can always find you. You’re on Twitter and Instagram. So they can always find you there. And we’ll put those links in the show notes. Thank you so much, Janice. Yes. And we’ll have this up soon. I can’t wait. People are gonna have lots of questions for you, I think. Perfect. Thank you so much. You have a great evening. Bye. Bye, you too. Thanks. Check us out on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and I’m even on clubhouse so feel free to look us up. Also on our website Grounded by the Farm calm wherever you want to get in touch we’re trying to be there. Shoot us a message about questions you have about farming and food. I hope you enjoy these episodes enough that you’ll share them with friends, whether that’s via social media or in a conversation. Love to think some of that as while you’re having dinner with friends and family. This is a production of Grounded Communications. Editing is by two guys talking. Thank you

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