Features

Growing quality for over half a century

30 Jul , 2020  

Operating 130 acres potatoes out of Bushmills in Co Antrim, McCurdy’s Potatoes continue to provide their customers with top quality potatoes. Irish Tractor & Agri caught up with Mark McCurdy to learn more about the family-run business in the Saffron County.

Business is “not too bad at all” at McCurdy’s Potatoes these days and for Mark McCurdy the aim is to continue growing the company day-by-day and supply their customers with some of the best potatoes in the business.

Operating 130 acres of potatoes – and “some acres of cereals” – McCurdy’s Potatoes brings their customer the highest quality potato products direct from the family farm.

Pre-packed potatoes are a speciality, according to Mark, whose father Dan McCurdy founded the company 57 years ago and together the family have grown it into the success story that it is today.

Indeed McCurdy’s Potatoes are recognised as one of the biggest growers and suppliers of quality potatoes in County Antrim and they’ve achieved such a status by being committed to producing the highest possible standard of product by using the most advanced and environmentally responsible practices.

“We have a number of full-time staff working here, including myself and my brother Jonathan, and we’re growing 130 acres of potatoes on the farm and some acres of cereals,” explained Mark.

“Altogether there are nine different varieties of potatoes that we grow here, which would have been at eight a few years back.”

When Dan McCurdy started his potato growing farm back in 1962, he’d have hardly envisioned his family’s business evolving to the point where they’d be growing nine different types of potato one day.

Nonetheless, McCurdy’s Potatoes is rightly proud of its long history in the potato industry, and has built up solid relationships with leading retail chains such as Spar and Mace down through the years.

They have state-of-the-art refrigerated and ambient storage and the focus has very much been on quality, service and value from Day One, which has been driven by the need to meet the customers’ requirements.

“We pride ourselves on the quality of our potatoes,” Mark outlined. “The success of the business is not about growing tonnes of potatoes, it’s about getting the quality right. That’s the reason why we have been on the go for fifty years.”

McCurdy’s Potatoes is open to the public from Monday to Saturday, 8am-7pm, and restaurants can also place telephone orders and deliveries are available.

Their potatoes are washed and packed for the retail sector. All of McCurdy’s Potatoes produce is home grown and pre-packed into their trade-marked bags for distribution.

They produce nine different varieties of potato on their 130 acres throughout the season and the ‘McCurdy’s Potatoes’ brand can be found on the shelves of approximately 80 different outlets within a 50-mile radius of their Antrim base along the Whitepark Road in Bushmills.

Still as passionate as ever about his family’s business, Mark says the current price of the potato coupled with rising input costs casts somewhat of a shadow over their operation at the minute.

“Business isn’t too bad but prices are always the biggest thing for us,” he stated. “It can be wet in a given year, which has an effect as well, but potato prices always seems to be the biggest thing for us year in, year out.”

Conditions in the market have remained mixed and potato production is under threat in Ireland because the current figures are simply unsustainable.

Growers moving direct to consumers and retailers have been reporting a reasonable demand but there are reports of increased amounts of potatoes being imported into the country.

This is unacceptable to growers considering there are sufficient stocks domestically to meet demand. There is an onus on the supermarkets to back up their verbal commitments to the local potato sector with action – both in terms of procurement and paying a better price.

“The current price is not good at all,” Mark outlined. “Stuff is moving which is better than it not moving but that is the only positive thing I can say at this point in time.

“Price is the biggest challenge facing potato growers at the moment along with competition and the unpredictability of the weather for growing.”

It’s a truly remarkable achievement for the family-run firm, so what has been the secret behind all of the success to date?

“I suppose we’ve been there a long time and we have a strong relationship with our clients,” Mark stated.

“Next year we’ll keep doing the same thing that we’re doing and continue looking for new customers all around the country. Hopefully, things will continue to improve a bit.”

Ireland’s unreliable climate can be the bane of a farmers’ life and the McCurdys will undoubtedly be hoping for a more favourable growing season next year, resulting in higher than normal yields for the company.

“Getting the right price is the main thing. If we get a decent price for our labour and product then we’d be very happy.”

McCurdy’s Potatoes
166 Whitepark Road
Bushmills
Co Antrim
BT57 8SS
Tel: 028 2073 2205

First published in Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 8 No 1, February/March 2020

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