Hatton Produce is a leading producer of potatoes, cereals, carrots and Christmas trees which has several long-term contracts with stores and wholesalers, whom they supply potatoes to on a weekly basis.
Based in Davidstown, Co. Wexford, the third-generation family business grows 450 acres of potatoes per annum, 1,000 acres of cereals, 20 acres of carrots and a further 60 acres of Christmas trees. Potato seed is also grown for the UK-based breeding company Solana.
Stephen Hatton runs the busy enterprise along with his wife Marina, son Henry, daughter Serena and six dedicated, professional and highly-skilled staff. Henry utilises much of the machinery used for growing and harvesting the crops in his agri contracting business, and recently took delivery of a new CLAAS harvester from Leinster Farm Machines in Duleek, Co. Meath.
The business was started by the late Alfie Hatton who was a sheep farmer and also grew cereals. His son Stephen took over the running of the farm in 1986 after graduating from Gurteen Agricultural College and diversified into growing potatoes. He started off with about two-and-a-half acres and built it up from there. The Hattons own 200 acres themselves, with the remainder of the land being leased locally.
“Growing cereals and potatoes have been our core business for over 30 years,” Serena Hatton explains.
“Because of the volatility involved with growing potatoes and to complement the potatoes and the cereals, we started growing Christmas trees in 2009. We look after them 12 months of the year, spraying them and so on, before harvesting between 8 and 10,000 trees in November and December. The work is very physical and labour intensive, but it ensures we’re busy all-year round.”
The potato varieties grown are Roosters, Verdi, Golden Wonders, Kerr’s Pinks and Queens. Verdi are supplied to Tayto Snacks (Largo Foods) in Ashbourne, Co. Meath, while other suppliers include O’Shea Farms in Piltown, Co. Kilkenny, Country Crest and KK Produce (both Dublin). Potatoes are also supplied through the Dublin wholesale market.
Winter barley, spring barley, malting barley, winter oats and seed corn are the cereals grown by Hatton Produce. The winter barley is supplied to John Cullen Grain, the spring barley is sold to John Cullen Grain, Connolly Red Mills, Cooladine Farms (Doyle’s) and Boortmalt, while the malting barley also goes to Boortmalt.
Hatton Produce branched into carrots this year and intend expanding this end of the business in the coming years. The family are grateful for the support, encouragement and advice they received from the UK-based consultant agronomist Colin Noble and Tom Breen of Breen Agricultural Services, who supply them with spray for their potato and carrot crops.
The Hattons have an array of machinery to sow, maintain and harvest their crops, including five New Holland and four Fendt tractors. They also operate five Grimme de-stoners, a Grimme gt170 trail harvester, a Grimme Varitron 220 harvester, a Grimme potato sower and Scanstone ridgers. In addition, a MAN rigid truck and a MAN articulated truck are used for delivering their products. Maintenance and repairs of machinery are carried out both in-house and by main dealers.
All the work is done in-house. “We do all our own ploughing, sowing, pressing, cutting and spraying, and are completely self-sufficient when it comes to potatoes,” Serena adds.
Once harvested, the potatoes and carrots are weighed, washed, graded and packed in an on-site production plant which includes 62,000 sq ft of insulated and refrigerated farm buildings. The plant boasts a storage capacity for about 4,500 tonnes. A new carrot line is currently being installed by Kevin Woods Machinery. The company was voted Ireland’s Potato Farmers of the Year in 2006.
A lot of hard work goes into turning a profit in this business. When we spoke to Serena, staff members were doing nightshifts lifting potatoes!
“The potato yield was very good this year, especially the Roosters, but it’s not reflected in the price we’re getting for them. Grain prices aren’t great either and you’re always at the mercy of the weather. Our overheads are high, with fuel costs being our greatest expense. But we try to be as efficient and as prudent as possible. We’re not afraid to try different things. Growing carrots and Christmas trees are proof of that.”
Looking to future, Serena concludes by saying: “We have a wealth of experience behind us and pride ourselves in our excellent produce. Our spuds are renowned for their quality and taste, and we want to keep it that way. We plan to grow more carrots next year and to consolidate our Christmas tree business. Above all else, we want to ensure our customers are 100% happy with our produce.”
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First published in Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 8 No 1, February/March 2020