Goats were not the plan when the people behind St Tola Cheese began their careers as teachers
Siobhán Ní Ghairbhith is at the forefront of a growing band of artisan cheese-makers who are increasing the sector's market share by adding value to their milk - or in Siobhán's case, to goat's milk produced on her farm in the Burren, Co Clare.
Siobhán is busy building up her St Tola goat's cheese brand, on land leased from her parents, with the help of her partner John Harrington - though that was not the plan when they both began their careers as teachers in the west back in the '90s.
"I wanted to go back to the farm and, with John's help, planned the goat's cheese enterprise," says Siobhán.
"When we were up and running we started producing the goat's cheese and sold it to local restaurants and hotels, but now it is also sold in cheese-mongers and the supermarkets."
When the couple took the plunge, they were producing some five tonnes of the cheese from their herd of around 300 goats - Saanen, British Alpines and some Toggenburgs - on the home farm of 70 acres outside Inagh on the road to Ennistymon.
Today, production has increased to 35 tonnes and is growing.
"We buy in goat's milk now from local farmers to meet our order-book demand and have our own pasteurising plant," says Siobhán. "The home milk is mainly used to make our cheese for the specialist restaurant markets, with most of the bought-in milk going to make our goat's cheese logs for the supermarkets.
"When we started off we didn't know how St Tola would go. When you would offer people a sample at the markets they would always say 'that's lovely', but when you told them it was goat's cheese they would say 'ooh'. It's different now, of course."