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  • Writer's picturePippa Hackett

Inspiring visits to Laois Agricultural Enterprises

My hope is that organic milk processing capacity will encourage famers to make the switch

I want to see farmers reclaim their creativity and confidence

I believe that my recent visit to three Laois agricultural businesses provided evidence of what can be achieved by enterprising businesses who think local.

I had meetings with a milk processor, butcher, and craft brewer, all operating within metres of each other. These are three fantastic enterprises which show what can be achieved when you are determined to work with your land, your customers and your local farmers. I want to highlight these businesses as inspirational.

In Killeshin, I first met with Noel Barcoe. Noel’s family processes milk from both conventional and organic dairy farmers and produces both types of milk and cream under the brand of ‘The Village Dairy’.

Noel’s operation is really impressive, and most important of all for those who supply to him, is that he has no problem finding customers for his milk and cream. As Minister with responsibility for organics, I would of course be happy to see him processing only organic milk, so I was very interested to hear that while he knows from customer feedback that market demand is there for such milk, he doesn’t yet have enough organic dairy farmers to enable him to process only organic milk.

I also met with Tommy Brennan who runs an abattoir and butcher right across the road from the dairy. The Clonmore Meats shop, full of fabulous locally sourced meat and other produce, was an incredible discovery. I heard that Tommy kills on average 100 cattle a week and about 250 lambs. Small abattoirs are no longer common, but they should be. As a farmer myself, I really see the value of being able to bring your cattle to a local abattoir, from an animal welfare perspective as well as from a convenience one, so I believe that we should encourage them again.

Next door to the butcher I met with Ian McDonald of the 12 Acres Brewing Company. Brewing beer made with water from your own spring and malt from your own crop of barley brings a whole new meaning to the concept of growing your own. And the pride with which Ian described how he and his brother Paddy are honouring the family history through the story they tell with their labelling was a joy to behold.

There is so much room for imagination, diversity and ingenuity on Irish farms. As Minister for Land Use and Biodiversity, I want to see more farmers reclaim their creativity and confidence and see farming as an art as well as a science, and I want to reassure those who are interested in doing so, and in working with, and in their communities, that this government will do all it can to support them.


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