'Our customers are loyal - they know the quality of our meat' - Kildare beef farmer on selling his own product
Not too many farmers can say they fared well during this past winter, but Peter Byrne of Newtown Farm was content with business.
A regular supplier of his own beef and other fresh products to farmers' markets, he enjoyed a prosperous few months and is now gearing up for a busy summer.
"Surprisingly, we got through the winter very well," he says. "Families were at home and cooking regular meals, which meant more business for us at the weekends."
Peter and his wife Aíne have traded at weekly farmers' markets now for well over a decade. From their home near Castledermot, Co Kildare each Saturday Peter heads down to Carlow, while Aíne travels up the country to Naas.
"It was a business idea that came from my brother-in-law Pat O'Neill who has O'Neills Dry Cured Bacon," he says.
"They started out doing farmers' markets and they now supply to a good few supermarkets.
"I started out selling my own beef to the factory and Pat suggested that I try the markets as well."
"At the time I also had sheep so I got out of those to concentrate only on beef."
That was in 2006 and the Byrnes haven't looked back since.
"We now farm about 30 sucklers and buy in about 100 calves each year," says Peter. "They are a mix of Aberdeen Angus and Hereford.
"Approximately 40 heifers are killed for the markets each year.
"The heifers are killed in nearby O'Gormans on a Tuesday morning and picked up on the Friday. I do most of the cutting very early on a Saturday morning.
"Our biggest sellers are the steak burgers, steak and mince, whereas the sale of roasts has slowed down so we might try corned beef later in the year instead."
The Byrnes have five children - Leah, Aidan, Laura, Claire and Simon.
"Our youngest son Simon, who is 19, helps out at home and prepares the burgers for us," says Peter.
In addition, Peter also sells locally-sourced lamb at the markets, as well as free-range chickens from local producers. They sell farm-fresh eggs from their own hens.
Many people have the idea that farmers' markets are expensive, but as the saying goes, 'you get what you pay for'.
"We are fortunate that we have a very regular clientele at both markets and they remain loyal to us as they know the quality of our meat and other products," explains Peter.
"Both markets are very different and busy at various times of the year, but we are optimistic of a good summer."
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