Technology plays a massive part in all our lives regardless of what area we work in and the willingness to invest in new technology and machinery helps many businesses stay ahead of their competitors.
To this end, Johnstown Farm Produce Ltd leads the way in applying the latest technology to their methods and producing a level of potato that is rivalled by few on these isles.
The O’Gorman brothers, Kevin, Brendan and John have always placed a great emphasis on investment as their eagerness to bring in the latest technology has enhanced their business dramatically over the years.
A Dewulf harvester bought from Quaile Machinery in Dublin who are a new dealership and irrigation equipment have been the latest investments made by the O’Gorman brothers and Kevin told Irish Tractor that it was essential to invest back into the business.
“Technology is changing all the time and a lot of the machinery coming out now cuts down on man hours and gets through the work a lot quicker,” said Kevin. “We bought the harvester from a new dealership in Dublin called Quaile Machinery and we have been impressed by the service that they have provided us. One of their technicians worked with Grimme for many years and he is one of the best that there is around.
“There are a lot of time constraints in this industry and if you can get the more done quicker and more efficiently than there is no doubt that investing is key.”
The O’Gorman’s have always focused on producing high quality potatoes as well as working a dairy and tillage farm at the same time. Between them, the business works like clockwork and with the help of two full time employees, plus seasonal workers, Johnstown Produce Ltd can service their customers’ needs.
Today, some 330 acres of potatoes are grown, predominantly on rented land within a seven-mile radius of Johnstown, near Castledermot in County Kildare. Johnstown Produce Ltd. grow Rooster potatoes exclusively and a yield of 20 tonnes per acre on a good year makes them Kildare’s largest potato producer. Virtually the entire harvest goes to O’Shea Farms in Piltown, County Kilkenny.
Outside of contract mowing for silage, the O’Gorman’s do everything themselves and are 100% self-sufficient. They run six John Deere’s (which are paired with 32-foot Gillespie Trailers for potato harvesting) two self-propelled potato harvesters, and a Fendt and also hire in a Fendt 930 to drive the rotavator and ridger. However, their corn sowing clashes with potato harvesting and so it is subbed out to the Brennan Brothers who carry out an excellent service for the O’Gorman’s.
The fleet is maintained in optimal working condition at all times and fresh units are added as and when required. Crucially, the O’Gorman brothers are not weighed down by any potentially-crippling overheads outside of the day-to-day running of their mixed farming enterprise and this leaves them on very sound financial footing going forward.
“Even though we do invest as much as possible, we try not to get ourselves into major debt and the aim is to keep the overheads down as much as possible.”
Like everyone in the country, the O’Gorman’s have had to adapt to living with Covid, but Kevin stressed that they been practicing social distancing for years.
“When you are out on a tractor in a middle of a field and no one else around, you can’t get much better social distancing than that,” he joked.
“We have been practicing it for years, but we have the proper procedures in place when needed, but fortunately it never affected our workload and we have been going all summer.”
Of course, one of the biggest issues facing the industry is the weather and Kevin stated that once you get that window of opportunity the work has to be done.
“The weather is something that we have to deal with, there is not much we can do about it and everyone knows the type of weather that we have here. So, when it is fine, we just go at it and try to get the work done during these periods of dry weather.”
Ever the perfectionists, the O’Gorman’s are not about to sit back and feel that they can’t improve on the business as Kevin was in no doubt that they are continuously looking at ways of enhancing their services.
“Like I said, investment is very important, and we have invested a lot of the last few years. We try to keep the tractors as long as we can as they are a big investment, but when they need changing, we will do just that.
We all know how much the Irish love the potato, it is an essential part of a stable diet and the ‘spuds’ produced by this family run business are second to none to say the least.
Johnstown Produce Ltd.,
First published in Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 9 No 1, January/February 2021