Carroll Produce in Lusk, Co. Dublin is Ireland’s largest spring onion farm. Owned and run by Paul Carroll, the 400-acre holding also produces celery, leek, cabbage and lettuce of the highest quality.
Paul has followed in his father Barney’s footsteps by growing vegetables on the family farm in north Co. Dublin. Barney grew tomatoes in glasshouses as well as iceberg lettuce and celery. Paul was 16 when he grew scallions for the first time. Fast forward nearly 30 years and he’s still growing them, albeit on a much larger scale.
“I’ve gone from growing two acres of scallions to 160,” he says.
“I grow a further 90 acres of leek, 90 acres of celery and 60 acres of white cabbage. In addition, we have five acres of glasshouses in which early celery and iceberg lettuce is grown. 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.”
Paul says he’s fortunate to have a great team behind him which includes operations manager Declan O’Reilly, Declan Kerrigan, who looks after the fertilising and spraying, his cousin Darren Rock, who oversees the tillage and planting, and Ger Turner, who is both a mechanic and fabricator. The scallions are sown between August and September and are over-wintered. New season spring onions are grown from February to June, leeks and celery are planted from April to July and cabbage from March to July. Harvesting is staggered throughout the season with different varieties being planted at different times of the year. Carroll Produce propagates its own celery seedlings in the glasshouses with the help of a Demtec potting machine which was brought in from Belgium eight years ago. The scallions can take anything between 130 and 300 days to grow and are harvested between the months of April and October.
“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,” the affable grower explains.
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.
“Its like anything in life. You have to put the effort in to get it out,” he says.
Scallions are not only crunchy, flavoursome and are part and parcel of any salad, but are also rich in B-complex vitamins and essential minerals such as copper, iron, manganese and calcium. The leafy greens contain several vital vitamins such as pyridoxine, folic acid, niacin, riboflavin and thiamine in healthy proportions. “Scallions are very popular with consumers because of their great taste and health benefits. There is also a strong demand for our other produce. Earlier this year, we exported fresh leeks to Spain and Holland because of a shortage caused by the bad weather in those countries. But nearly all of our produce goes to the Irish market.”
Despite the availability in Ireland of Mexican scallions all year round, Paul is more than holding his own and supplies to all the main multiples as well as to wholesalers such as Meade’s, Begley’s and Donnelly’s. “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 is a large pack-house on the farm which boasts four washing and trimming lines along with two Redpack flowrapping machines, two new fridges and a loading bay area. Paul runs two refrigerated trucks and one curtainsider as well as a fleet of six John Deere and five Massey Ferguson tractors, with a further three new Massey Fergusons due to arrive this month from WBD Farm Machinery in Ballyboughal. He has a wide range of other plant / machinery, including a Massey Ferguson teleporter, a New Holland track loader, an Asa leek lift harvester, cultivators, tillers, sowers, sprayers and ploughs.
The Lusk farmer revived his showjumping career five years ago after a long absence, and enjoyed success last year when he and his mount Castleroche La Roche saw off stiff competition from over 600 competitors from around the country to win the Amateur Showjumping Championship at the Dublin Horse Show in the RDS.. Paul is married to Louise and they have three children, Claudia (eight), Pippa (seven) and Niall (five).
Telephone: 087 2445279
Email: [email protected]
Taken from Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 5 No 3, April/May 2017