How this dairy, tillage and beef farm was reinvented as a garlic and asparagus farm
In 2004, the fields of Drummond House, the Collier family's 100-acre farm in Baltray, Co Louth, an hour north of Dublin, were used as car parks for the Irish Open, and as a landing pad for helicopters flying in golf fans who didn't want to sit in traffic.
Now, thanks to the efforts of Peter and Marita Collier, Drummond House is home to a successful Irish garlic business, and this year will see the farm's first full crop of Irish asparagus, a springtime delicacy that's prized for its delicate, fresh flavour.
"Drummond House has been in Peter's family for 150 years," says Marita, who worked in sales and marketing before re-inventing herself as a garlic farmer.
"It used to be mixed dairy and tillage, with some beef cattle, but the land had been rented out for years. Peter is an architect and he works full-time as a project manager for the DAA, I was looking to start a business from home. Farming is so uncertain that we decided to look upon it more as a business than a farm, with the hope that we could develop something sustainable for the future."
With Drummond House garlic thriving - products include elephant garlic, smoked garlic and fermented black garlic, as well as garlic scapes - Marita decided that it was time for Drummond House to venture into another crop.
"In deciding what we were going to grow," says Marita, "we wanted to choose something that nobody within 50 or 100 miles of us was doing - there's no point falling out with neighbours or encroaching on their territory.
"Also, in terms of timing, the asparagus kicks in when the garlic tails off, which is good for cashflow. It may only be worth €8,000-€9,000 a year to us at the moment, but to a small farmer that's a significant sum. It's a premium product, we can produce it in limited quantities and because we own the land the risk is limited.
"Asparagus was actually quite a common crop throughout Ireland in the past, but there's been very little grown here in recent years. We approached a family of specialist growers in Holland for advice. They have been in business for 80 years and they came over to look at the farm before suggesting the varieties of asparagus that we should be growing based on our soil, climate and site.