Rich Tradition of Farm Based Business

Rich Tradition of Farm Based Business

This week, we are excited to announce three finalists in the Diversification category at this year’s West Cork Farming Awards.

The region has many fine examples of farms that have diversified creatively into successful farm-based businesses in areas including artisanal foods and agrotourism.

The motivation for diversification varies from person to person, and for some it is financial, the need to create a new stream of income, while for others it is to maximize the resources they easily have on their farm.

Our three finalists were very honest when sharing their diversification stories, acknowledging that, at times, it was a struggle that made them overcome many challenges on the journey.

But they all also agreed that it was a decision they never regretted, that it was something that proved to the future their farms and, in some cases, assured that they had a legacy to pass on to posterity.

Ultimately, the judges will present the prize to the winner who has developed a farm-based business that makes a positive financial contribution to the family’s income.

Next week, we’ll reveal the finalists for this year’s Best Farms, which is always a hotly contested category.

This will be followed by the Drystock finalists, then the Hall of Fame winner, followed by the farming family.

All finalists, along with their families, will be invited to an awards ceremony at the Celtic Ross Hotel,

Rosscarbery on Friday, October 7, where we are pleased to say that the guest of honor will be IFA President Tim Cullinan.

Diversity Awards Finalists – Sponsored by Scally’s SuperValu, Clonakilty

Sandra Schmid founded her therapeutic horseback riding center in Bantry in 2013 and has since removed major hurdles to develop Henry’s Hair Care Farm to the higher level it is today.

Earlier this year, I traveled the Beara Breifne 500km on horseback to raise the remaining funds needed to complete the center’s all-weather barn that opened last week.

Sandra, a registered social worker originally from Germany, and her husband Tim both have a 12-acre farm 5 kilometers outside Bantry – mostly grasslands and some native woodland.

“I have been raising horses on our land since the year we moved here in 2005, and with my social background and keen interest in working with people with additional needs, I started Hairy Henry Care Farm in 2013 initially just offering therapeutic rides to children and adults those with additional needs.

Over the years she has begun to include the entire farm and all animals in her courses for therapeutic and educational benefits with great success.

She now runs individual and group therapy sessions, kids camps, riding lessons, educational programs and family visits to the farms with a wide range of activities throughout the farm.

Care farming is its approach, where people are encouraged and supported to engage in farming activities.

“It involves practical functions such as feeding, shoveling carcasses, cleaning the horses, driving the donkeys to the field etc. In care farming it is not so important what the job is done or how it gets done – the focus is on the benefits it might bring to the person. I use my horses and donkeys. Sheep, rabbits, guinea pigs, chickens, geese, ducks and dogs in my work and the sessions promote a sense of purpose, belonging, achievement, independence, improved communication skills and self-esteem.

She said their land would not make a commercial profit from cattle, plowing, or even forests.

This diversification is perfect for our farm. By combining my social and health care skills, my passion for animals and nature, and my animal-centric skills, I can earn an income from our farm.

The opening of the purpose-built center was a major achievement, which she said required “iron design” to achieve.

My future plan is to expand on my existing programs as I can now provide reliable service all year round.

I would like to offer a preschool program for children with autism. I also like to develop and implement programs for young teens to support them in personal development, positive mental health, and self-care.

Got Bath Pod Park | sheep head

A ranch accident in 2016 was the final push that Chris O’Sullivan needed to take the first steps toward developing his unique luxury location, Goat’s Path Pod Park, on top of sheep.

The accident saw Chris lose the tips of two fingers on his right hand.

I couldn’t work for three months after that. I’ve had an idea of ​​the luxury location for a while, and it just gave me the impetus to get my idea moving.

The accident made me realize I was doing all that hard work on the farm anyway, but I got little to no return. I asked myself what I was waiting for?

“And that’s when I decided I wanted to do more on the farm,” he said.

At the time, Chris was running a sheep farm in a picturesque location in Glanlo, between Bantry and Ahakista.

His first diversification was the creation of the “Goats Path Farm” brand which he made by switching to rare breeds: Dexter cattle and False Black Annos sheep (which he described as a cross between a dog and a sheep!).

Next came the handed over luxury position after planning hurdles were removed and the Commander’s financing secured.

The unique garden features six pods with grassy roofs as well as a tent site.

They opened in June 2021 – when closing restrictions were lifted – and they enjoyed a full sale for the first season.

“This year we had a lot of repeat business as well as visitors from the UK, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands and France,” Chris said.

The agrotourism project is largely a family affair.

Chris helps his wife, Marie (who worked as childcare until the pandemic) and their children Sophie (15) and Danny (12).

Building a strong legacy for children was another strong motivating factor for Chris to diversify from traditional farming.

My father delivered me to the farm, and I was happy with that, but it was really an expensive hobby. I want to give my kids something with a future, and I think there’s a huge future in that.

Chris has a lot of plans for the park going forward. He has already kept hits pets and pygmy goats on site and down the line he hopes to develop a pet farm for guests but will also open to the public.

The idea is to expand on West Cork’s first pet farm where visitors can come for a day visit. Chris said planning to commit to it and open this business during the pandemic is my greatest achievement to date.

Corag Farm Lodges | Riverstick

VERONICA Kelleher has always felt there is something “magical” about the Riverstick Ranch where she lives with her husband and four children.

“The more I got on the farm, I could feel it, and I could see that there was more potential out there,” she said.

The farm was originally a dairy farm until 2007, then they switched to beef while also raising horses for national hunting.

But in the end, it was the need to make the farm more commercially viable which made Veronica and Morris plunge into agritourism.

“By 2017, we realized we needed to diversify in order to ensure the farm was sustainable,” she said. We realized that like most farms in Ireland we have outhouses and that there is potential to convert them into self catering accommodation. We had fully untapped property assets, in the heart of our farm. We literally got past her every day without seeing her true potential,” Veronica said.

It carried out the main project of converting three outhouses into a one-bedroom inn, where the focus is on high-end finishes and luxury.

Curragh Farm Lodges opened a week before Covid hit and like all other accommodation providers had to close, but once they got the go-ahead, reservations flooded, and the farm has been 98% occupied since opening.

She has also since overseen the renovation of the 300-year-old farmhouse Morris grew up in, the Corag House, on the property.

Its goal, throughout, is to deliver a hotel experience, with a farm experience and a customer experience.

She said, “Our client is a king.”

The couple also restored naturally occurring paths, across the farm, so their guests could use them as walkways to see cattle, horses, ponies, and alpacas.

Veronica admits that the path to diversification has not been without its challenges.

I remember the night before the opening, thinking no one would come to Riverstick on their holidays. But the rest is history! “

She said all family members including children Connor (19), Moses (14), Tom (11) and Tara (7) made sacrifices but that it was 110% worth it.

“From a family and farm perspective, it was the best thing we’ve ever done,” she said.

It was financially rewarding and also boosted the local economy, while giving little rent for life to their farms.

I am so grateful that I owned the land and was able to do something very positive with it.

“It was definitely a big capital investment, but we proved the future for the farm and we brought each other closer,” Veronica said.

Why support agriculture in West Cork

AT Scally’s SuperValu, it has always been our policy to support local suppliers and maintain jobs in our community.

We believe this is very important for the local economy and also ensures that we can offer our customers the best local products.

So said Eugene Scully, the second generation of the Scully family who runs Super Vallow in Clonakilty. In business since 1984, the store has championed West Cork foods from the start and this continues to be a cornerstone of the company’s ethos.

Eoghan runs the business with his parents, Eugene and Catriona, and the store employs over 150 people, trading seven days a week and 363 days a year.

The store has won numerous awards and accolades over the years, and has continued to change and improve in line with the evolution of retail globally.

When Eugene was asked to join the inaugural West Cork Farming Awards nearly a decade ago, he didn’t hesitate, believing that it was imperative that farm families in West Cork be honored for their tremendous efforts in producing first-class food, whether it’s in produce Dairy, beef or crop. From an agricultural background, Eugene knows firsthand the effort that goes into working the land and producing food to consistently high standards.

In recent years, Scally’s has sponsored the Diversification Award at the West Cork Farming Awards, and as a retailer who loves innovation, Eoghan believes this is a particularly good fit for SuperValu Clonakilty.

It is great to see how farms have succeeded in diversifying their business and developing additional income whether it is in agrotourism or artisan foods etc.

There have been some notable winners in this category like the Lynch family of Bantry Bay Farm Foods, and O’Donovan of Gloun Cross Dairy, to name a few. We look forward to meeting the finalists in this exciting category of the West Cork Farming Awards 2022.”

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