'There is a great future for farmers who are adding value to their milk'
Limerick dairy farmer Jim O'Brien is on a "career break" from running the home farm and is flat out developing his O'Brien Artisan Farmhouse Cheese enterprise which is being well received in Munster and, in small quantities thus far, in the Middle East.
"I decided to take a career break five years ago and leave the running of the dairy herd to my son James, and go into the cheesemaking business, and so far, things are going well," says Jim (65), who has 180 acres at Hazel Cottage Farm in Ballyhahill, between Foynes and Tarbert.
"We won a cheese award last year at the Kerrygold Food Festival in Listowel, and sales to restaurants in Kerry and Limerick are going well.
"We retain 10pc of our milk for the cheesemaking."
Cheddar, brie and feta-style salad cheeses are being produced. The enterprise, which stands 130 head of British Friesian with some Jersey crosses, supplies the rest of the milk to the Kerry Group.
Jim started farming at the age of 15 when his father John Snr had a heart attack and had to step back from front-line farming, and Jim's education was put on hold so he could fill the breach.
The farm was only 25 acres back then but Jim gradually built it up, and by the age of 21 had resumed his education to achieve a diploma in Social and Rural studies - which may explain his entrepreneurial streak today.
"We ran pigs at the time but that became unprofitable and we diverted into dairying and gradually built up the farm," he says.