Established in 1982, Meade Farm Group is a grower, packer and distributor based in Lobinstown, Co Meath which has gone from strength to strength since it was founded by Philip Meade Sr over four decades ago. Irish Tractor & Agri touched based with Jeni Meade, Communications & Sustainability Manager, to learn all about this thriving business and its diversification over the years.
At the start of 2021, Meade Potato Company, an award-winning grower, packer and distributor, changed its name to ‘Meade Farm Group’.
The change was a mark of the company’s diversification and its mission to bring all types of tasty, wholesome and healthy produce into the Irish kitchen.
From the family farm in Lobinstown, Co Meath, Meade Farm Group have been growing, sourcing and packing premium quality fresh produce over the past four decades. Today, they employ 350 staff and their products include potatoes, fruit, vegetables & salads, organics, prepared foods and recently, Irish potato starch.
Irish Tractor & Agri spoke with the Communications & Sustainability Manager, Jeni Meade to hear more on the decision behind the name change for the company and the overall state of business at the moment.
“The name of the company was changed at the beginning of this year,” she outlined. “We’ve just felt that as we’ve grown through the years, the name Meade Farm Group more accurately reflected our origins as well as our diversity of products.
Jeni Meade, who is married to a beef & sheep farmer of another Meade clan, has been part of the team in Lobinstown for nine years now.
She’s seen a lot of changes within the business in that time, but perhaps more in the last 18 months or so than ever.
Right now, business is thriving at Meade Farm Group in spite of all the challenges out there at the moment for the award-winning Co Meath company.
“Our growing operations are increasing and we’ve recently invested in a new harvester which will boost efficiency. We have purchased a camera-guided Garford Weeder and are using lazy bed weeders too to increase our mechanical weeding and reduce our herbicide use, one of our many Origin Green objectives.”
The company prioritise sustainability and is an active member of the Bord Bia Origin Green programme. With targets around areas of raw material sourcing, manufacturing and social sustainability, they are busy on many fronts trying to achieve the overall aims of carbon emissions reduction and biodiversity. The recent installation of solar panels will add to the many other energy efficiency measures already in place such as a wind turbine and heat exchangers.
“There is more we would love to do to in terms of our sustainability plans and we are working hard, concentrating on making our way through all of our targets and always adding new greener targets, be it energy, packaging… Rome wasn’t built in a day!”
“In terms of the pandemic and the effect it had, it was a triple whammy for us between Covid, Brexit and the recent focus on carbon emissions.
“There have just been a lot of changes in the way that we do business: you’ve logistics issues with Brexit; managing COVID and add onto that the urgency that we all face in terms of reducing carbon footprints, packaging, etc. There are a lot of new outside factors now which we have to take into account when doing business. So, it has been an unprecedented year and not solely because of the pandemic.”
Demand remains high for the company’s products and one of its proudest moment in recent years was bringing to the market a world class product for use in food manufacturing, Ireland’s only native food grade Irish potato starch, out of a desire to be more sustainable.
In the widely-recognised environmental study ‘Project Drawndown’, the number most scaleable solution to reducing climate change is to reduce food waste. Meade Farm Group’s starch is doing this, offering a novel, nutritious and premium product to consumers and manufacturers worldwide that is made from surplus-to-requirements potatoes.
Unlike European and Russian starch, which is predominantly made from potatoes grown specifically for starch extraction, Meade Farm’s starch is only from potatoes graded out of the table potato market, giving its potato crops more long-term sustainability.
The company is operating a state-of-the-art custom-built starch plant and uses cutting edge technology to produce premium quality food grade starch used as a thickening and binding agent in food processing.
“We’re taking a Class 2 product and to make the product is a huge win for the environment first and foremost. There is the obvious food waste prevention aspect and then the import substitution it will effect now that Irish and UK manufacturers don’t have to ship this product in from abroad. It’s also positive for potato growers,” explained the Communications & Sustainability Manager.
“A rising tide lifts all ships and potato starch is a development that the company is really proud of. It’s got great nutrition benefits and is becoming quite a trendy ingredient in terms of the benefits it offers for savoury and sweet cooking, frying and baking.
“We’re hoping that more and more people will learn about it and be converted!”
So, what has been the secret to success for this family-run venture over the past four decades?
How has it managed to stand the test of time to the point where it’s more diversified than ever before and also as busy as it’s ever been at the present time?
For Jeni, she cites the reputation the company has for producing products which are simply second to none and their commitment to championing quality Irish produce.
“We have all of the good attributes of a family farm in that we really care about what we’re producing and we work hard; it’s helped to build a strong business down through the years.”
It was the belief of founder Philip Meade Sr that bringing people good quality food to eat is as noble a vocation as there is.
Now, the next generation of Meades are certainly following in his footsteps as they still believe that bringing premium quality, sustainable produce to consumers is a truly worthy enterprise.
Next year will officially mark 40 years in business for Meade Farm Group and you would be willing to bet that they will be going strong in another 40 years.
Meade Farm Group
Tel: +353 46 905 3198
First published in Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 9 No 5, September/October 2021