As a nation, we have become a lot more conscious of what we eat and this is not only good for our health, but it has also helped the economy as many local food producers have seen the benefit of our change in attitude towards food.
One such company that has prospered in recent years is County Meath based McCormack Family Farms who are leading growers and suppliers of fresh herbs and baby leaf produce.
Supplying major supermarkets like Dunnes Stores, Tescos, Aldi, Lidl and Super Valu, this family run business is producing top quality products for a market that includes the hotel sector and retail outlets.
All their products are grown within a five-mile radius of their homestead in Dunsany, Co Meath as Stephen McCormack revealed that it was essential to get the products in cold storage as quickly as possible.
“Once the produce is harvested, we have literally one hour to chill the produce, so it is essential that we are close to our cold storage unit, otherwise the produce could go to waste and it’s life span would be far shorter. We lease in the region of 600 acres and we are fortunate that we could get the land so close to home,” said Stephen.
Growing and packing their own produce means that a dedicated team of workers are called upon to ensure that customers receive their orders on time.
“We would have 120 working here in the different areas and we’re fortunate to have a good staff. We would also employ an additional 20 seasonal workers. We have four artics on the road doing all our deliveries east west north and south and this means that we are not relying on anyone else to ensure that the customers get their goods when ordered and on time.” This is very much a family run business as Stephen is joined in the business, which was started by his parents Eddie and Laura, by his brothers Edwin and Padraic.
Approximately 50 tonnes of baby leaf and 10 tonnes of herbs are produced each week making them one of the largest producers in the country.
Also located on the farm is one hectare of glasshouse for micro leaves and edible flowers all year round and one hectare of polytunnel for growing herbs like basil chive and mint, “May to November is when we grow our outside crops, while indoor would be grown all year round, so there is no real quiet period for us.”
Their range of leaf includes: Baby Leaf Spinach, Rocket, Kale, Mixed leaves , Mizuna, Micro Leaves growing and cut, Pak Choi, Pea Shoots, Red Chard and Watercress. A full range of culinary herbs, including Basil, Coriander, Parsley and Mint, are also grown.
The McCormack family take great pride in their work as their reputation has been built on providing quality produce to their ever-expanding customer base.
“The experience that we have gathered over the years has allowed us to help improve the quality of products and we have to maintain those standards or our customers will go elsewhere, it’s as simple as that. We are always looking at ways to improve the business, while we continuously invest in new equipment and machinery.”
Having originally grown root vegetables only, the McCormack’s branched into growing herbs in 1998 and baby leaf in 2000.
Before long, they began specialising in herbs and baby leaf to cater for what was, and continues to be, a growing market. “People’s taste began to change with the onset of the Celtic Tiger,” recalls Stephen, who is married to Catriona and has three children, Charlie, Jack and Abbi.
“The market for nutritious and healthy food suddenly began to grow and there were new lines of herbs coming into Ireland from Europe which encouraged us to develop this produce here in Ireland,
They also specialise in supplying prepacks to the catering sector and supermarkets. As members of Organic Trust Ltd, they supply organically certified spinach and baby leaf produce.
The family-run business is also Bord Bia and BRC certified. Despite having effectively cornered the fresh herbs and baby leaf market in this country, McCormack Farms faces stiff competition from overseas producers.
“Our main competition comes from imports. Volume is the key to our survival. We have had no choice but to grow big,” Stephen explains.
With Brexit looming over every business that has to deal with north of the border, Stephen admits that he is waiting to see what happens before making any decisions.
“There is not a lot that we can do until we find out what is happening. There is a market there for us to expand into mainland U.K, but we won’t be doing anything on that front until it is all sorted out.”
As a family business, McCormack Family Farms continues to grow superb quality Irish produce. Stephen, Edward and the rest of the team hope you enjoy their nutritional salad leaves and herbs as much as they love growing them!
“This is part of our lives and we are passionate about what we do. It is much more than just a business to us and I think our customers realise that.”
McCormack Family Farms
Dunsany, Co. Meath.
Taken from Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 7 No 3, June/July 2019