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My wife Brigid and myself worked overseas on agriculture development projects for 15 years –encouraging small scale farmers to improve family income by upgrading the quality of their cow(s) and increasing milk yield. When I returned to Ireland I was aware that I too had a small 50 acre farm on the foothills of the Dublin mountains. I decided to practice what I had preached to farmer friends in Africa and Eastern Europe and strive to make a living from a small farm in Ireland. In 2000 we developed a free range egg enterprise. We now supply eggs to over 600 customers on a weekly basis – most of our customers are within walking distance of the farm. We then grew potatoes as an ideal accompaniment to the eggs but found that we could not compete on price. We used the tillage equipment we bought to grow potatoes to develop allotments on the farm where our customers could grow their own vegetables and potatoes. This proved successful and today we have 60 families from the local community using our allotments. Our newest enterprise is the development of a dairy goat herd. We purchased kid goats, modified the existing farm sheds for goats and put up a milking parlour. In 2021 we completed a 50 sq metre purpose built cheese/hygiene room for the purpose of producing liquid goats milk in glass bottles and the production of a premium soft goats cheese from our grass fed goats. Today we have 50 goats milking and plan to increase numbers in the years to come. We have developed a market for all our male kid goats with the ethnic communities where goat meat is a delicacy. In particular we have developed a strong relationship with the Nepalese community.
The goat’s cheese we produce is a hand crafted soft cream cheese – Dublin Hills Goats Cheese. The milk is pasteurised in small batches. The milk goes directly from the milking machine to pasteuriser and so retains all the goodness of milk from goats free to graze on the lush green pastures on the foothills of the Dublin mountains. Our stocking rate is low enough not to require artificial fertilisers – nor do we use herbicides on our ground. We are not organic but strive to minimise veterinary inputs. We are the only cheese producer in Dublin. There are 25 beehives on the farm - managed by a local professional beekeeper. We have found that our cheese drizzled with the local real Dublin honey produces a delicate and delicious combination of flavours. In professional tastings this honey drizzled Dublin Hills Goats Cheese has proven to be a winner.
The development of the dairy goat enterprise and the development of markets for this new milk and cheese product requires hard work and constant commitment to achieve set goals. Participating in the SuperValu Food Academy programme has allowed us to stick with our dream and educated us in a step-by-step way on how to push the enterprise forward.
We have developed the farm to provide a viable family income. We are on track to create 1 full time job and 2 part time jobs on the farm in the next 12 months as our goat’s cheese enterprise gets off the ground. We are considering opening a farm shop on a Saturday morning to sell eggs, cheese, surplus vegetables from the allotments and other local craft or produce. This development would create further opportunities for employment.