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How I went from US TV exec to farmer's wife ... and love it

A HIGH-FLYING US TV executive swapped manicures for manure in a massive change of lifestyle in Ireland.

Imen McDonnell left her career in New York when she fell for an Irish farmer.

The busy professional worked on the Rosie O'Donnell Show in Manhattan and then for an advertising broadcast production company.

She had high-profile meetings and shoots with models in LA, Milan and Paris.



optimism

But a chance encounter with an Irish tourist in her home town led her to a farm in Limerick.

"After an extended courtship period, we had to decide who was going to relocate if we wanted to stay together," she said.

"I assumed I would still be able to easily work in my field regardless of where I was.

"Richard, on the other hand, had a farm that could not be relocated."

Imen said that the change of pace from downtown New York took some getting used to.

"At times I miss the work that I used to do tremendously," she said. "I miss the buzz of working with creative minds on a daily basis, and the synergy that comes together on a production set.

"I miss family, friends, food, filming ... the cultural energy of urban living. Also, the eternal optimism that is quite an American trait.

"I was extremely homesick for a very long time after moving over, but now I find that when I am in the US for more than a couple weeks, I miss the Irish countryside as much as my husband does," she added.

But she has settled into the way of life and now her only complaints are the smell of slurry and the price of travel back home to the US.

And she said that she has a new appreciation for all things green.

"We've built a beautiful home and garden together. I love growing vegetables, learning to cook, and feeding the animals. I love the green," Imen said.

"I love seeing the farm and countryside through our son's eyes.

"I love being close to the ocean. I have enjoyed meeting so many new people through food blogging and journalism."

The former media professional and now farmer's wife and mum-of-one said that her new rural lifestyle has completely changed her outlook in terms of shopping.



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"I used to strictly be a consumer. Now, living on the farm, I view things from both a producer and consumer point of view," she said.

"I place a far larger value on where our food comes from and who we buy it from.

"The more we 'grow our own', the more I think I'd love to eat only what we grow or raise here, which is not practical, but before moving to Ireland, I had never grown a thing in my life and certainly didn't think I was capable.

"Also, I have realised that I had procured enormous expectations, and placed a lot of value on conveniences that are not quite as necessary as I previously thought, such as weekly pedicures or having a Dean & DeLuca around the corner.

"I see the beauty and importance in the quietness of rural living, which is a big leap for someone who formerly couldn't sleep without hearing traffic below her apartment window."

Imen, who writes a weekly column in Irish Country Living, has also begun to branch out into production.

"I just wrapped principle filming for a short documentary film entitled Food Island that I produced and directed," she said.

"Myself and a small crew of former colleagues in America travelled to six counties in 10 days interviewing artisan food producers, farmers and enthusiasts who are passionate about the specialness of Irish food and the movement that is occurring in Irish food.

"In a week's time, I will be sitting in an edit suite Stateside putting the piece together, I can't wait."

clairemurphy@herald.ie