'We wanted to move out of the city, but I had no idea about living in the country'
One of the most successful off-farm enterprises in the country lies nestled between an Aldi and Des Kelly Interiors along the Long Mile Road on the outskirts of Dublin.
Back in 2013, Donal O'Sullivan had the idea of setting up a small cafe in his safety equipment shop in a bid to help drum up business for his shop.
"We had to do something. We had five children to look after, so I started making scones at home and got advice on how to serve proper coffee. It just took off from there and soon we were serving lunch," his wife Susan says.
Originally from Clontarf in Dublin, Susan is not your typical farmer. In fact, her very first experience of living in the country only came when the family moved to Enfield in 2003.
"We wanted to move out of Dublin, but I had no idea about living in the country. We gave the auctioneer some criteria - the house had to come with some land and not be too far from the city."
The couple set their hearts on a gorgeous country house on 47 acres, however the land and outhouses were badly run down and it was several years before the holding was suitable for farming.
Donal came from a farming family in Kerry, so had some experience when they purchased their first sheep soon after moving into the new home. Susan was later gifted some piglets, and a few pet ducks arrived soon after.
From there, they expanded to include beef cattle, and now the bulk of the meat served at the café comes from the farm.
"We only keep a small number of cattle (about a dozen or so in total at a time), as we don't have the space, but we have enough for what we want. Some of the Highland cows have calves at the moment. They produce delicious meat and this forms a beef pot that we serve."
They also keep some Belted Galloway and Dexter, although their numbers of Dexter have reduced in recent years to just one now.
"They produce lovely meat too, but we found them rather difficult to farm, so only have one at the moment."
They also keep a small flock of sheep to provide spring lamb, and are currently in the process of redeveloping their facilities to keep some new rare breed pigs. They have kept Gloucester Old Spot in the past.
In addition, Donal has recently started keeping bees, with a view to producing their own honey to sell.
Meanwhile, The Farmhouse Cafe in Dublin 12 has grown from serving tea and scones to winning the coveted John and Sally McKenna Guide 'Cafe of the Year' award last January.
Dublin 12 is not the most obvious spot for a farmhouse cafe, and there's nothing 'country' about the area, but as one of the busiest routes in and out of Dublin, the Long Mile Road has proven to be an absolute goldmine of a location to serve up the best of meat, herbs and vegetables from their organic farm outside Enfield.
From those small beginnings with just six tables and no staff, the cafe now employs 14 people and serves up to 200 customers a day, with several high-profile businesses in the area, including Glanbia, also availing of their corporate service, especially at breakfast time.
Spring lamb, slow-cooked gammon and a delicious beef pot are just some of the many healthy dishes on the menu.
Above all, Susan is hugely proud of her herb and vegetable garden that grew from just a few leaves all those years ago.
"I really had no experience of growing vegetables, but I read a lot of books." Initially, starting out with rocket and other salad leaves, the walled garden now includes dozens of varieties, including beetroot, kale and garlic.
"We want to serve fresh food using fresh ingredients, so I grow as much here as I can. Plus we have more control over flavours when we are growing our own," she said.
"We serve what is in season and, if not, we will source it elsewhere. We don't grow our own carrots, for example, as we don't use much in the cafe and they are so plentiful in the shops."
Susan's motto is to serve healthy food, although some old favourites still feature on the menu.
"We've tried to steer people away from the 'full Irish' by offering alternatives, but it didn't really work. It's hard to change the Irish mindset, but we have plenty of customers who love the likes of our cheesy spinach on sourdough.
"We may not be the trendiest place in town, but we cook everything from scratch and ensure the best of fresh food every time."
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