Farming family on successfully combining tourism, beer and now pigs on their 100ac farm
A recent Teagasc national survey from 2016 makes for stark reading on the question of sustainable farming incomes.
One third of all farmers surveyed were not viable, while another third only survive with off farm incomes. As a result it is increasingly common for farmers to look at less traditional ways of using their land to generate an income. The Williams family in Redcross, Wicklow, is one such example combining tourism, beer and now pigs in a creative mix.
They began their farming business in the last century via New Zealand. Grandfather John Williams worked in construction on the railways in New Zealand earning good money before he turned to Wicklow where he purchased a farm of 60 acres. His son Robert took over the farm and added a further 40 acres to the home farm and worked a mixture of tillage, beef and dairy too at one time.
Despite working on a busy farm, Robert’s wife Violet could not sit still. To supplement the farm’s income she decided to enter the tourism game and rented out the family home for the summer.
While profitable this enterprise was not congruent with farming and so in 1978, ten acres were set aside for a purpose build caravan and camping park. The tourism bug had been caught and was swiftly shared by their children – three boys and a daughter.
In the forty years that passed the family added piecemeal to River Valley Holiday park. Winters they farmed and planned new extensions, and Summers they welcomed increasing numbers of tourists. Growth was organic, slow and measured.
In 1990, 20 acres were taken from the farm to increase the amenities and attractions including foot golf, archery and a Sports Complex. In 2011 another tranche of land, again 20 acres, was planted in forestry proving the guests with scenic walks.
Also in 2011 they added Glamping with Kukoo Huts, Maxolodges and Tree-houses. Earlier this year the Tree-Houses took the award for 'the most innovative place to stay' at the Failte Ireland Tourism Awards.