Hit farm toys opening gates to US market after Late, Late boost

Padraic Cuddy with some of his toy fields, which he was inspired to make by his then three-year-old son, Tommy
Padraic Cuddy with some of his toy fields, which he was inspired to make by his then three-year-old son, Tommy

Ken Whelan

Roscommon farmer Padraic Cuddy's toy fields started out as a way to keep his son's possessions in order.

The Field Toys, the remarkable start-up rural enterprise set up on a sheep farm in Roscommon three years ago, is set to tackle the American market this Christmas with its range of 'farming fields' for children.

Chief executive Padraic Cuddy says the initial market testing of Field Toys in the States has been positive and he is hoping they will prove a best-seller in this new market.

Cuddy, a 51-year-old former plant hire man and occasional farmer from Athleague, came up with the idea of creating the rural toy fields - which are carpeted with artificial grass - to corral his then three-year-old son Tommy's growing collection of toy tractors, diggers and farm animals which were scattered all over the family home.

"My wife Annita asked me one day would I do something about the toys, they were all over the place," he explains.

"So I went into the shed and created this field from timber and covered it with the artificial grass, and when Tommy saw it he played in the field for hours on end.

"Then his friends came over and did the same so I had to make them fields for Christmas."

And on that basis of problem solving, Padraic's new company was created -so Tommy was the brainchild for the idea and his friends the first market focus group for the product.

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Initially the fields sold in Ireland and the products got a lucky break after they were featured on The Late Late Toy Show and subsequently made inroads into the toy markets in the North and in Britain.

Padraic, a born entrepreneur, says that nearly half a million euro has been generated by the idea since it was first featured on The Toy Show three years ago but most of this revenue has been ploughed back into developing the Field Toys brand through his company Class Grass.

Economic crash

How Padraic became involved with artificial grass is a story in itself, as is his career up to the economic crash of the late '90s centred on plant hire in the Roscommon area, mainly on the land reclamation side.

When the boom slowed he sold up and went to work with a friend running a company producing artificial grass near Faro airport in Portugal.

After a few years there he returned to Ireland and set up his own artificial grass business at the homeplace in Roscommon - it initially dressed graves with the artificial grass. It still does that but has been cranked up a few commercial gears to cope with the toy venture.

The fields being manufactured for the American market are being assembled in China for cost reasons, and are being marketed in the States by a Northern Irish company with experience of the American market.

"The signs are good at the moment and the containers are ready to roll. We are hopeful about the American venture", Padraic says.

Back at base in Roscommon Padraic employs seven people working from converted farm buildings on a 30-acre holding near his home farm which he bought to facilitate his growing business. A series of different fields have been developed and, of course, each comes with its own title deed.

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