Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Friday 17 November 2017

Liam establishes viable business by creating direct sales focus in Kildare

Liam Ryan is one grower that has evolved his entire business without relying on supermarkets and instead concentrating on direct sales.

Working closely with John Hogan, the Kildare based grower has seen his direct sales multiply several fold in the last five years.

Starting out growing on just a quarter of an acre in 2003, the Tipp native is now growing 6ac of organic fruit and vegetables on his 13.5ac farm at Ballitore.

"I did a few years working in air-conditioned offices in London before I realised that I really wanted to be outdoors growing things," he said.

Mr Ryan grew up on a small dairy and beef farm in north Tipperary but he says that he never really had a grá for working with animals.

"I was always drawn to the garden and I progressed from there to volunteering on organic farms and eventually ended up doing a two-year apprenticeship on British farms," he said.

Mr Ryan feels that there is a real need for a similar type of scheme here to help people avoid learning the hard way.

"There is a slight naivety about many who end up trying to make a living out of the sector because they tend to be attracted to organics for lifestyle rather than monetary reasons.

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"I suppose I'm one of those and have made plenty of mistakes, partly because there is a real vacuum of information out there.

"There are so many people who have a real interest and just need a mentor," he said.

The Ryans chose to sell land in Tipperary to reinvest in land in Kildare that was ideal for vegetable production with a gentle slope and very good drainage.

"It is also very close to Dublin and that is quite important even though I sell a lot of my produce through the farmers' market in Carlow," said Mr Ryan. "I also sell to other growers looking to substitute their production at different times of the year and they tend to be Dublin-based sellers."

After an initial five years when he worked at the vegetables on a part-time basis and helped look after two young children while his wife worked in Dublin, Mr Ryan decided to work full-time at the business in 2008. He now grows 15 separate lines, including salad leaves, carrots, strawberries, sweetcorn, french beans, brussels sprouts, leeks, tomatoes, potatoes, apples and cabbages.

"I'm probably at the stage where I need to employ somebody full-time to help me. The hours are long at an average of 60 a week and I'd be interested in getting into a bit of teaching alongside producing vegetables," he said.

"I really like the interaction with people but it is tough work and I won't be able to do it forever. But thankfully it now looks like we've got a real viability to the enterprise here."

Irish Independent