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Archive for the ‘Local Hero’ Category

It has been a while but here’s an introduction to another one of our super local hero food producers.

I went to visit Barry and Lorraine from Cais na Tire way back at the start of the summer…. the first thing that struck me as I drove into the farmyard just outside Terryglass was just how neat and tidy it was.  The old farmhouse with the beautiful red door is just so eye-catching.  Barry very kindly took me into the farmhouse before we started chatting sheep and cheese.

Front Door

A heritage front door

Walking into the old farm kitchen is like walking into a time machine.  The house belonged to Barry’s granduncle, and it absolutely amazing inside.  The dresser is beautiful (it actually featured in that short movie about traditional Irish furniture produced by Tony Donoghue)…. the calendar on the wall is from 2004.  As I say a complete time warp.

A typical Irish Dresser

A typical Irish Dresser

Having enjoyed that little tour, Barry then took me along to meet the sheep.

His herd is a mix of Friesland, and Friesland/Zwartbles crosses.  He choose the Friesland as they are ideal for milking, having clearer (cleaner) access to the udders.  Lambing had just finished so the purpose-built shed, and milking parlour, was a busy place with young lambs.

Friesland lambs

Friesland lambs

Barry took over the farm from his Dad in 2011, and introduced sheep to the mix in 2013.  Having started with 70 lambs, they have grown the herd to 105 ewes.  Any males that are born are sold off.  They kept 16 this year to restock the freezer!

Mother and babies

Mother and babies

The milking season is a short, but intense, for Barry and Lorraine.  The season starts in Spring and continues through the Summer to early Autumn.  Barry takes care of the milking with his 105 ewes producing about 1200 litres per week during the summer months.  The milk is transported twice a week to Marion at Killeen Cheese who makes the cheese on behalf of Cais na Tire.

Purpose built Milking Parlour

Purpose built Milking Parlour

When the cheese comes back to the farm, Lorraine takes over the process.  It is Lorraine that looks after the storing and turning of the cheese, the labelling and packaging.

Barry and Lorraine have chosen to sell their cheese wholesale through distributors.  Barry explained that this was the simpler option for them, neither of them have any marketing and/or sales experience.  As Barry said to me they are ‘farmers not retailers’.

The finished cheese : Cais na Tire

The finished cheese : Cais na Tire

Cais na Tire cheese is delicious.  It is quite a distinctive earthy flavour, and is particularly nice when cooked.  It makes a great substitute for parmessan.  The cheese is widely available through various outlets.

Contact:

Cais na Tire, Cloninaha, Terryglass, Co. Tipperary

Proprietors: Barry & Lorraine Cahalan

Phone: 087 2274789

Email: caisnatire@gmail.com

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This is what I’m at right now …. bloggers’ tour to #midireland and the #magicalmidlands 🙂

Bloggers tour

Bloggers tour

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Starting 2015 by continuing my introduction to some of our wonderful artisan food producers in the area.  This time around it is time to meet the baker.

What’s not to love about the smell of freshly baked bread?  Doesn’t it raise the spirits of everyone?  Is it any wonder that estate agents used to suggest you should bake bread on the day your house was being shown for a sale?

Beautiful Breads

Beautiful Breads

While we mostly make our own bread, there are times when we are just stuck or have run out of time.  When such times occur our preferred bread of choice is that baked by Jonas Hein at Coolfin Gardens Organic Bakery in Banagher.

I recently chatted to Jonas and, his wife, Layla, about their bakery.

Jonas started the bakery from his home kitchen in 2007.  Back then the idea was that a small bakery would help tide him and Layla over financially while they were developing the ‘real big’ business plan.  However, as often happens in life, things changed along the way.

Jonas had always worked in the catering industry both front of house, and behind the scenes. He, however, had no ‘formal’ training in bread-making.  His baking skill was learned from his Swiss Mum, having watched her bake for the family all his life.

As Layla and Jonas continued to work on the big plan….. the popularity of their breads just grew and grew.  Originally they were just supplying some local shops and restaurants, and doing the occasional market.

It was a difficult time when the realisation came that the ‘big plan’ was not going to come to fruition, yet they knew that the bakery was growing in popularity, and had huge potential.

So being adaptable and hard-working, the bakery became the ‘big plan’.

Now seven years later the bakery has moved to a customised industrial unit and has grown to the stage that more decisions need to be made as to ‘where to from here?’.

Jonas admits it is a tough schedule….. his working week starts at 3 pm on Wednesday, working late into the night each day through to 7.30 am on Saturday.  A pretty tough and exacting schedule, don’t you think.  And saying his week starts on Wednesday afternoon, is probably not totally accurate either.  Like most business people he wears other business hats, so on the other days of the week orders and admin work have to be completed.

Layla starts her working week on Thursday at 7 am.  She’s in charge of deliveries to the restaurants and shops.  And on Saturday morning, after her delivery run, she heads off to the Galway Street Market for the day.

You’ll find the Coolfin Organic Bakery stand just across the road from Anthony Ryan’s.

Their breads are also available locally in Birr at the Organic Store on Main Street.

So if you are in Galway do stop by their stand…. Layla laughs that people refer to it as ‘Layla’s Bread’….. that’s what happens when you are the ‘face’ of the business I guess 🙂

Alfie's burger and Jonas' Ciabatti

Alfie’s burger and Jonas’ Ciabatti (screenshot from A Taste of Success on RTE)

Their range of organic and spelt breads includes 12 different varieties with the ciabatta being the most popular. (I can see why!  It is our favourite too!  Alfie actually used Jonas and Layla’s ciabatta on his recent TV appearance on The Taste of Success!).

Jonas and Layla Hein

Coolfin Gardens Organic Bakery

Telephone Layla:  087 204 5593

email:  coolfingardens@gmail.com

Facebook: Coolfin Gardens Organic Bakery

 

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When I initially thought about sharing details of some of the wonderful producers we have right on our doorstep here…. I think I counted 15 within a few minutes. That list has got longer and longer. I’ve neglected sharing details of any of them with you for too long.

And, of course, in that list I never thought about telling you about our own product. Doh!

So, today, as I kick-start this part of the blog, I am letting Alfie tell you about how we came to be pig farmers and pork producers.

Clarenceresize

Can you tell me about the background to Oldfarm Pork?  How did it all start?

Oldfarm Pork started by accident and necessity. Due to redundancies and lack of employment in our locality another source of income had to be found. As we were already rearing pigs for our own and family members table, it seemed like a logical thing to try to find markets for the type of pork that we were raising.

It was a rapid learning curve, when I mixed some young boars with young gilts [informed that pregnancy was not possible at their age.. WRONG] 52 piglets born in less than a week certainly focuses one’s mind on “what do I do now’. So we started a web site to promote the meat and I suppose the type of lifestyle we lead.

People seemed to be impressed with our ethos and care regarding clean food and its provenance.

What are you main business areas?

Raising and selling our pork and bacon products, and as a side to this running training courses on raising your own pigs. There are more and more people considering the option of raising their own food. Isn’t it wonderful to see this?

Who do you supply to? How can customers get your products?

Our customers are mainly private households who buy direct from us online, then we organize delivery via a courier service. A small number of restaurants order from us as well.

What has been your biggest challenge to date?

Mud, lack of cash flow, not enough land.

Over the years there have been many different hurdles thrown our way.

While we grow our pigs in a totally organic way, using locally sourced, ethically grown feed… the cost of registering as ‘organic’ would add tremendously to our costs, which would then add to the cost of the meat. We have opted to stay with ‘free-range’. We were delighted to be the first (and I believe still the only) pork producers to attain ‘free-range’ approval from Bord Bia – The Irish Food Board for our pork.

We also used to do all the deliveries ourselves which was a great way to meet our customers, but with the constant increases in fuel costs this had to be reviewed. So for the past 18 months we have been using a courier service which has it’s ups and downs but overall works quite well.

Alfie & Pigs
What is the next challenge? New range, location change etc…

Increase our customer base, obtain more land, more added value products.

I am sure there is some other challenge just around the corner that we will have to overcome. It is the nature of business.

How important is social media to your organisation?

Vital.. as its direct access to customers, at a personnel level. We use our website, this blog, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest. Some platforms we use more than others, but they all help to raise our profile and increase awareness of what we do.

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To introduce you to my next Local Food Hero I had to be careful to make sure it was a Tipperary based hero!  Trust me living in the country, county borders are of grave significance – especially at this time of year when we are in the thick of the All Ireland Hurling and Football finals.  I would surely run the risk of excommunication if I did not introduce you to a Tipperary Food Hero.

Michael Seymour of Sheepwalk Farm was probably one of the first local producers we met when we moved here 10 years ago.  Michael sells organic beef and lamb at Nenagh Market and directly to customers.

The first thing that strikes you when you arrive at Michael and Olive Seymour’s farm is the fact that it right in the centre of town.  Literally – right smack bang in the middle of Borrisokane.  Walk less than 100 yards and you are on Main Street!

Sheepwalk Farm

Sheepwalk Farm

I spent a couple of hours with Michael recently, and he explained to me that originally (and when he was growing up) the farm house was on Main Street!  A number of years back he sold the house on Main Street and built a more modern home for his own family just behind  the original house.  The farmland still runs from the back of Main Street down to the river and beyond, which as Michael said “makes life very easy, if you’re out fencing and realise you’ve run out of nails – you just have to walk a few hundred yards to get some more”.  So true!  We’ve been there ourselves when it has meant a 10 mile round trip into town!

Slevin's Callow

Slevin’s Callow

Walking the farm is almost like a ‘who’s who’ history of Borrisokane.  I loved listening to Michael give me the names of the different fields – there’s Slevin’s Callow, Gannon’s Callow, Mikey’s field and oh, and this one is ‘our’ field!   That’s the Ballyfinboy River over there…. and there’s the Millrace that was constructed in the late 1800’s….. we built this bridge last year, it makes it much easier to move the lambs and sheep.

Michael’s great-grandfather (who originally came from our  own neighbourhood village, Lorrha) bought the farm on his return for America in the 1800’s.  It is so unusual to hear of people returning, but he did and the land has been farmed in a traditional way by Michael and his ancestors, ever since.

The farm has been fully organic since 1999, Michael explained that he didn’t like what he was seeing with the sprays and chemicals that were being used, and felt it just couldn’t be good for either the land or humanity.  He has often been asked why he doesn’t have a denser stocking level, but he works with nature and knows what his farm will sustain.  As part of the farm is ‘callow’ land it is not suitable to be used in certain weather.  Michael has 20 suckler cows, 80 ewes and their respective offsprings on his 130 acres.

With endless patience, Michael explained how his rotational system works.  Lambs are grazed from March to July on same fields  but from then on they graze on different fields, where lambs have not grazed before.  As lambs graze fields the worm population grows but moving to fields not grazed previously by lambs should be clean grazing, that’s usually after grass.

The sheep on Sheepwalk Farm

The sheep on Sheepwalk Farm

The cattle are generally moved indoors onto straw bedding by mid-November where they are fed farm cut silage.  The sheep stay out most of the year  only being brought indoors for lambing.   However, their grazing is supplemented with organic nuts and silage over the winter.

Fields are cut and grazed on alternate years, using a rotation system like this helps to naturally build up the soil fertility which in turn contributes to the preservation of the traditional grasses, clovers and herbs.

As we walked and chatted, I was struck by the array of gorgeous sloes, blackberries, crab apples and haws in the hedges.  There were tons of mushrooms and Michael said there are lots of damsons in the hedgerows on the farm too.

I asked about challenges, like all other farmers, Michael said buying in feed and fodder this past year was extremely costly.  He balked when he totted up the total!!!  However, when I asked would he have chosen another life other than farming – his answer was a very definite No!

We also chatted about ‘social media’.  I know Michael uses Twitter.  Why?  Well, as Michael said, you have to know about these things – everyone else is at it so you need to keep abreast.

I asked if he thought people’s shopping had changed in recent times?  No, was Michael’s answer, he felt the shopping pattern changed seasonally….. more burgers and chops in the summer, more traditionally roasts and stews in the winter…. but business is generally remaining the same.

Michael and his delicious organic lamb and beef can be found at Nenagh Market in Quintin’s Way, Nenagh on Friday afternoons and Saturdays 10 – 3 pm, or just give him a call to arrange delivery.

We came home from our visit to Sheepwalk Farm with some lamb and beef…. we’ve had the roast lamb – it is delicious…. the beef is being saved for a special occasion.

Contact details:

Seymour Organics,  Sheepwalk Farm, Borrisokane, Co. Tipperary.

Tel:   Michael on 086 400 0680

web:  www.sheepwalkfarm.com

email: seymourorganic@gmail.com

Twitter: @SeymourOrganic

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Bo Bristle – a new star is born

Sitting over dinner one evening recently it struck me just how many local food producers we have on our doorstep here in the Midlands.  Within a couple of minutes of having the thought, I had 15 names scribbled on a piece of paper – all within a 10/20 mile radius of Redwood.

As the thought developed, I decided it was time to share the stories of some of these local food heroes with you.  Some only sell locally, some sell nationally, others have even gone international, but one thing they all have in common is a passion and enthusiasm for what it is they do.

Over the coming months, I hope to introduce you to a diverse range of products, but let’s kick off with a beer brewer from Banagher (is that alliteration?).

Andrew Horn moved from the UK to Ireland in 2009, just as our now famous recession was starting.  Andrew graduated with an Manufacturing Engineering degree but his career up to 2009 had been in the IT sector.

On arriving in Ireland, Andrew found it difficult to gain employment in the IT sector so a career change was considered.

He missed the variety of ales and beers from home.  Andrew always had a passion and obsession for quailty beer – and was known to brew beer for fellow stduents while at university 🙂

Andrew did his research….. did you know?

Craft beers are the most exciting and fastest growing segment of the beer business worldwide.  In a slow economy, craft beer is outperforming all other beer categories.  In particular, the US and UK have witnessed double digit growth for consecutive years and the trend is being followed in Ireland. 

It was time for Andrew and his business partner, Morgan Smyth, to think about developing this idea.  They approached Offaly County Enterprise Board for a grant and from there there was no turning back.

We met Andrew for the first time a couple of months back, and since then have grown to really, really like his Amber Ale.  We have introduced friends – Mona and Ron – to his beers and they too have been impressed to the extent that they’ve introduced it to their friends 🙂

He is doing good things with his all natural beers which are brewed just up the road from us in Banagher, Co. Offaly.

Bo Bristle Amber Ale

Bo Bristle Amber Ale

What are your main business areas? 

We produce a lot of draught beer under contract for Carrig Craft Brewing Limited  – Carrig lager 4.3% abv and Rowers Red Ale 4.3% abv.  We produce all the beer using our own special recipes and Carrig distribute the beer under their name.

The two beers are sold in many pubs around the country, however the majority of the customers are located in Dublin.

In the last 12 months we have started to produce beer under our own brand name ‘Bo Bristle’.  We produce a range of Irish Craft Beers for draught & bottle sale. So far we have two craft beers rolled out; Bo Bristle IPA (draught) and Bo Bristle Amber Ale (bottle).

Tell me about the name ‘Bo Bristle’?

The name Bo Bristle came from Celtic legend where great importance is attached to the bristles of the boar. They were the distinguishing characteristic of the animal and symbolic of its strength.

Boar hunting features in several stories of Celtic and Irish mythology and one such story is how ‘Fionn Mac Cumhaill’ lured his rival ‘Diarmuid Ua Duibhne’ to his death; gored by the powerful bristle of the boar.

Our beers are likewise known for their strength, flavour and character.

What makes Bo Bristle different to other beers/ales? 

Bo Bristle beers are brewed in small batches using traditional brewing methods. They are produced from 100% natural ingredients and are completely chemical free which differentiates us from the majority of mass produced beers on the market today. In addition, Bo Bristle beers are exciting, full of flavour and character.

We are able to produce small batches of various styles of beer for profit.  Large breweries  are unable to achieve the same diversity and still turn a profit.

We have invested in the development of a strong and vibrant brand which, we believe, will substantially assist in the success of future marketing campaigns and sales growth.

Who do you supply to? Mainly local shops/pubs or is it all on site? 

The majority of our sales are draught beer, see list of customers on www.bobristle.com & www.carrigcraftbrewing.com

We’re only just getting started with the bottles but we hope to expand our sales in the coming weeks/months.

What has been your biggest challenge to date?

The first year was very challenging, we faced many hurdles with planning permission for the brewery and also the application to become a bonded warehouse. These two particular problems meant that even after building the brewery we were unable to legally sell any product for the first 12 months.

What is the next challenge? New range, location change etc… 

Fortunately we’re now in a position of running the brewery at full capacity, so the next challenge will be to try and expand the production. The long term plan is to build a much bigger plant.  We will also be increasing our range at the same time.

How important is social media to your organisation?

Social media is very important to small companies such ourselves to help with much needed marketing opportunities at minimal/zero cost.

Can people come visit your plant?

Not at the moment I’m afraid, however when we expand into our new brewery then we’ll be encouraging visitors for sure.

Don't Mess with the Boar - Photo property of Bo Bristle

Don’t Mess with the Boar – Photo property of Bo Bristle

As the legend on the Bo Bristle bottle  says ‘Don’t mess with the boar’….. and this is certainly no beer to mess with.   It is really good and goes terrifically well with pork 🙂

We’d recommend going that bit out of your way to get your hands on a couple of bottles.

Contact details:

Bo Bristle, Banagher, Co. Offaly.

Tel:   Andrew on 086 125 0283

web:  www.bobristle.com

email: info@bobristle.com

Twitter: @BoBristle

 

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