Lusk has always been known as the epicentre for growing and harvesting crops as the coastal area’s land is ideal for this type of work.
So, it is no great surprise to learn that the country largest spring onion farm is situated in the North Dublin area as Carroll Produce continue to supply their large customer base with spring onions, celery and leeks.
There is no doubt that 2020 has been an unusual year for everyone as Covid-19 has changed the world as we know it, but for some like Carroll Produce, it was a case of knuckling down and keeping their customers happy.
“We have been busy all year,” said Paul. “None of the shops were closed so there was a big demand for our products, although the restaurants and hotels were closed for a while.
“Our biggest issue during the early part of the lockdown was the drought as there was a shortage of water for a 12 week period. The drought was a major concern, but we managed to save the crops, even though it meant a lot of extra work for everyone.”
Paul stressed that it was essential to continuously invest in the business in order to keep up with the demand for their crops and the most recent investment was a new celery packing rig that finishes the product in the field.
“The new machine cuts down on man hours and has been a worthwhile investment. We can basically sort all the celery out on the land, leave the waste in the field and bring it either to storage or for delivery.”
One hundred and sixty acres of spring onions are harvested every year, while 90 acres of leeks, 90 acres of celery and 40 acres of white cabbage make up most of the 400-acre holding.
“We would rotate the crops every year and change where we harvest from. It can be sometimes difficult to locate the amount of land we need, but everyone works together in that regard.
“All of the land is conacre. We employ 35 full-time staff and up to 160 in the peak season, which is May ‘til September. During these months, planting and harvesting is under way, and because the scallions have to be picked by hand, a lot of extra labour is needed.”
Having taken over the business from his father Barney, Paul admits that working in this industry in something that is in the blood.
“I suppose it is in the blood. You have to have the attitude of getting bigger in this industry as the main concern for vegetable growers today is, to get big or get out. You need bigger quantities to make it work
Paul stressed that this was not the type of industry that you could rest on your laurels as it was imperative to always look at ways to improve the business.
“It’s like anything in life. You have to put the effort in to get it out,” he says.
Paul is more than holding his own and supplies to all the main multiples as well as to wholesalers. “We have a loyal customer-base which has stood by us down through the years. Our location close to the all the major roads and on the doorstep of the city allows us to have most of our produce on the shop shelves within 24 hours of harvesting,” he continues.
“There’s no such thing as a quiet time of the year for us. The scallion harvesting is very time-consuming and labour intensive. As with any vegetable crop, the weather is key. Mildew and hailstones are scallions’ biggest enemies.
“We sow the scallions between August and September and over-winter them. New season spring onions are grown from February to June, leeks from April to July, celery from April to July and cabbage from March to July.
“Harvesting is staggered throughout the season. We plant different varieties at different times of the year. We propagate seedlings in the glasshouses and sow them into pots. This year’s harvest is looking good. The weather has been on our side.”
Carroll Produce propagates its own celery seedlings in the glasshouses befors they are transplanted. The scallions can take anything between 130 and 300 days to grow and are harvested between the months of April and October.
Paul realised a long time ago that in order to produce the highest standard of crops, he had to focus all his expertise on maximising the potential of the vegetables he was most familiar with and tailor his business to meet the increasing specifications for the high quality produce that his consumers demand. He is committed to ensuring that his farming methods are environmentally friendly and works closely with the land to nurture the richest soils which yield the best produce.
Telephone: 087 2445279
Email: [email protected]
First published in Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 8 No 3, October/November 2020