Slaney Farms Produce Ltd is a grower and producer of superior Wexford potatoes. Based just outside Enniscorthy, the family-run business is constantly adapting to changing market demands and recently launched its own potato-based gin brand, Jackford Irish Potato Gin.
Nationally recognised as a supplier of high-quality potatoes to retail multiples such as Tesco, Super Valu and convenience stores, Slaney Farms has deep roots in the agricultural heartland of Co. Wexford. The Stafford family have been farming in the ‘Sunny South East’ for generations and that tradition is being proudly maintained by John Stafford, who grows 400 acres of potatoes and 800 acres of cereals annually in the best and most fertile soil from the Slaney River Basin down as far as Blackwater in south Co. Wexford.
Slaney Farms is steadfast in its mission to provide exceptional produce to its customers through the tireless effort of a dedicated team of 22 staff. The company’s commitment to quality begins in the field where it grows and harvests its premium potatoes. The care taken in storing and packing its fresh produce is proven right through from farm to fork. And it is through Slaney Farms’ ability to bringing the best quality, nutritious, convenient and delicious produce to the consumer in a sustainable and responsible way that it strengthens and supports its communities into the future.
As custodians of its green environment, respecting, protecting and enhancing its natural resources is critical to meeting the customer needs of today and ensuring a vibrant legacy for future generations. Slaney Farms also engages in a collaborative approach with many of its partners. Participating in research and programmes with its customer-base right back down the supply chain to participating in studies trials and projects with national organisations such as Teagasc, IFA, Bord Bia Quality Scheme and Origin Green, Slaney Farms is also about delivering the very best fresh, nutritious potatoes.
“My father Mac (Michael) grew potatoes in the 1960s and was one of the first growers to import an automatic potato planter into Ireland,” Slaney Farms managing director John Stafford explains.
“I started growing potatoes in the late 1980s and built a cold store facility in the mid-90s. In 2000, we started washing and pre-packing. We invested in a new packhouse automated system and haven’t looked back since.”
Quality is the bedrock of John’s business. Consumers and retailers alike expect produce to be grown, handled, packaged and transported to the highest standards, in a clean and sustainable manner. As one of Ireland’s leading growers and suppliers of fresh potato produce, Slaney Farms nurtures all of its potato varieties in deep free-draining loamy soils where nutrients are added to ensure optimal flavour and quality excellence.
Working with nature in the heart of potato country, the company follows the growing cycle; sowing, growing and harvesting at optimal times to achieve the finest produce. Packing in its strategically located facility just outside Enniscorthy, Slaney Farms’ main crop potatoes, once harvested, are dried using special drying technology. Then stored in quality controlled refrigerated purpose-built stores with the temperature maintained at an even 3 ° C, the potatoes happily sit in their dark cool home until they are required for packing and dispatch countrywide. The state-of-the-art facility currently has a capacity for over 5,000 tonnes, ensuring consistency in quality and supply all year round.
Health & Safety is of paramount importance at Slaney Farms too. With its facility audited yearly, the company is proud of the fact that it’s consistently compliant. You will find the Bord Bia Quality Mark on all Slaney Farms products, which means the food has been produced to the highest Bord Bia quality standards and is fully traceable. Slaney Farms also became verified members of Origin Green in February of last year. A Bord Bia initiative, Origin Green brings together the Irish food industry with the common goal of sustainable food production.
The varieties of potatoes grown by Slaney Farms are Rooster, Wexford Queen’s, Kerr’s Pink, Golden Wonder and Salad Potatoes, which were introduced three years ago. The cereals grown include Winter Wheat, Spring Barley, Spring Beans and Winter Oats.
Roosters are their main crop grown on the farm. Red-skinned, yellow-fleshed, easy to cook any way and hardy, Roosters are the most widely grown potato in Ireland which are traditionally harvested from August through November.
Kerr’s Pink, with their white-to-pink skin colour, are flourier than the Rooster. This is another Irish favourite that has traditionally been grown in counties Cork, Kerry and Donegal. Wexford Queen’s are also very popular. They are a mainstay of the summer with their white skin and flesh, excellent floury texture and beautiful taste. They can be used for boiling, steaming, roasting and chipping.
In his role as Operations Manager, Ed Tobin is responsible for the day-to-day running of the farm and packhouse. He has five tractors (three John Deere and two Claas) at his disposal and uses primarily GRIMME equipment for the planting and harvesting. The grading and handling equipment used in the packhouse is supplied by Tong Engineering. Slaney Farms avails of the services of local agricultural contractors at peak times.
According to Ed, who has been Operations Manager for the past 10 years, preparation at the beginning of every year is key.
“We try to get as much maintenance done as possible coming up to spring. The machinery needs to be in perfect working order, while seed and soil preparation is very important,” he says.
“We decide on the varieties and the soil types which best suit them. After that, it’s about making sure everything you had planned to do is achieved. You have to be ready for any unforeseen circumstances or snags. We are lucky to have a great team of individuals who are all interested in and passionate about what they’re doing. It’s a real team effort.
“Once the crop is sown, we implement our blight programme which involves spraying every 7 days to control and prevent the spread of potato blight. Come the harvest, we have our guys lined up and our fridge plan in place. Sometimes your best-laid plans can be undone by the weather.
“Growing and bagging brings its own challenges. To be able to grow 400 acres of potatoes and sell them as your own brand is a great reflection on John and his business.”
Ed acknowledges that it’s an exciting time for the company with the launch of its Jackford Irish Potato Gin brand and plans in place for a potato-themed distillery and visitor centre in Enniscorthy.
“The business never stops evolving,” he enthuses.
“We’re growing more potato varieties than ever before to meet market requirements and have just started producing our own brand of gin which is made from Wexford potatoes. We attained our Origin Green accreditation last year, which is another feather in our cap, and now there are plans in the pipeline for a distillery and visitor centre.
“We are always looking at ways to build and improve on what we have.”
Slaney Farms Produce Ltd
Telephone: +353 (0)53 9235095
Email: [email protected]
Taken from Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 6 No 5, August 2018