Rory and Sheila Magorrian produce a range of salad leaves on 5 acres of land in North Cork. Turnover for 2017 will be approximately €90,000. Financial turnover has been maintained by streamlining production and marketing to concentrate more on higher-value salad crops which are now supplied directly to 7 local retail supermarkets in Co. Cork.
Income is relatively constant throughout the year. The main costs amount to €15,000 to €20,000 per year and include packaging, printing, labelling, diesel for deliveries, seed, compost, electricity and infrastructure upkeep.
The small plant-based family farm produces a per hectare income that is 90-125 times the income for sheep and beef farms in Ireland, and 33 times the average per hectare income of dairy farms and 50 times for Tillage farms.
Overall, what advice would Rory and Sheila give to anyone considering going into organic vegetable production on a small holding? Rory says: “The market is there but at the same time you have to work on it yourself. I believe the model operating on our farm can be replicated around the country.” This simple case study shows how a family farm can produce healthy plant based foods and generate an income that is close to the average industrial wage.
You can read more about Kildinan Farm here.
This is a small family farm outside Kinsale. They mainly grow mixed salad leaves for the local community, supplying both the general public and restaurants. They grow using natural methods and dedicate at least 10% of the farm to feeding and providing shelter for many native insects, pollinators and small wild birds.
By selling direct to the consumer they get a fairer price for their produce. They get direct feedback from the consumer so the products can be tailored to requests and waste is reduced. Community spirit is created through constant interaction with locals.
Gort na Nain Farm supplies high-quality vegetables to several restaurants in Cork City, including the well-known Cafe Paradiso. All vegetables on this 9-acre farm are grown without the use of artificial fertilisers, pesticides or herbicides and their method follows organic principles.
The holding is divided into 4 separate fields for vegetable production, and an orchard. One of the 4 vegetable fields is permanently occupied by perennial vegetables (e.g. asparagus, seakale and globe artichokes) and 10 polytunnels for the cultivation of aubergines, peppers, tomatoes and other vegetables that find it too difficult to grow out in the open. The other 3 fields are used for the cultivation of hardy outdoor vegetables.
“Many people visiting Gort na Nain who are not familiar with the effect of the Gulf-Stream on Cork’s South Coast are amazed to see relative exotics such as aubergines, chilli peppers, borlotti beans, melons and globe artichokes growing side-by-side with the more conventional vegetables like potatoes, cauliflowers and salad crops.”
Green Earth Organics is a vegbox delivery scheme employing 35 people. They farm on 40 acres of organically certified land. Another 10 acres is split between a wildlife biodiversity area, native woodland forestry (3000 trees) and red clover/grassland. There are 6 polytunnels and a wide range of crops are grown, both indoors and in the field.
Robinson’s farm is a family run farm in Cork, based on 30 acres. The vegetables are grown without the use of chemicals and include: potatoes, cabbage, broccoli, turnips, onions, leeks, beetroots, carrots, parsnips, lettuce, mixed salads, tomatoes, beans, courgette, pumpkins and cucumbers. The produce is sold at local markets.
Cognisant of the dangers of soil degradation and forest removal, the family have given over areas to wildlife and tree planting, and they practice cover cropping and crop rotation. All this provides shelter from increasingly stormy winters, creates beneficial predator habitats and provides a reliable source of water, while improving the aesthetics of the farm.
“On our wettest 6 acres we have planted a mixed wood of willows, alder, hazel and oak. In the middle of this we have dug out a lake for wetland habitat. We have also widened hedgerows, and planted shelterbelts. 4 acres of marginal land has been given over to our agroforestry experiment. We have made sure our plantings of trees have been diverse, including wild fruit bearing trees, hardwoods and softwoods. The arable portion of the farm rotates between vegetables, cover crops and grass, creating a diverse patchwork of different habitats. We often allow our overwintered brassicas to go to flower and provide early bee forage in the spring.”
Moloney’s Cottage, run by Eoin O’Callaghan in County Cork, is a small-scale market garden producing fresh, seasonal vegetables without the use of artificial herbicides and pesticides, and hand delivers to customers through a weekly box-scheme. The business has recently scaled up to include sales to selected restaurants and a SuperValu store.
Funding from the Department of Agriculture’s ‘Investment in Horticulture Scheme’ allowed Eoin to purchase specialised machinery and equipment from the outset. He advises potential entrepreneurs to “love what you do but be as brutally honest in your business plan. Try to balance optimism with realism and always keep your target goals in mind”.