In December, John B Dockrell Ltd in Co Wexford was successful at the Bord Bia Origin Green Farmer Awards. Irish Tractor heard more about the success and the company itself from its Farm Manager Paul Doran.
Coming up on 30 years since they first started growing down in Monroe, Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, John B Dockrell Ltd is as busy as it has ever been, according to Paul Doran.
The end of 2018 saw the company come out on top in the field vegetables category at the Bord Bia Origin Green Farmer Awards, as a result of their constant monitoring of nutrients, reduced chemical inputs and water cycling.
All three techniques have helped John B Dockrell to become one of the most recognised vegetable growers in the south east in recent years, as Paul himself told Irish Tractor & Agri shortly after the award success.
“We have been growing since 1990 and we’ve 31 full-time staff and 36 seasonal. I’ve been the Farm Manager here since 1992,” he explained.
“When John began in this line of work, he started off farming in Drogheda and then bought some land in Wexford in 1990 and basically grew it from there.
Growing both carrots and lettuce, John B Dockrell ltd is supplying its own carrots for 40 weeks of the year. The company presently has plans in place to install solar panels in order to provide the daytime energy requirements of the business.
Paul provided the lowdown as to when exactly the company grows its products, which eventually hit the shelves of some of the biggest stores in the country, while also explaining about some of the recent investments it has made equipment wise.
“We grow carrots for most of the multiples – from early July to April the following year would be the growing season for us,” he said.
”We start the season with carrots covered with poly/ fleece, then open ground and all the late carrots are covered with straw to protect them from frost. Straw was an expensive input this season.”
The Farm Manager added: “The pack house is managed by Jackie Tighe who joined the company in 1993.
“She also looks after the QC. We wash, grade and pack all our own carrots and her aim is to deliver a quality consistent product to the market.
“We have invested heavily in our harvesting system over the last few years with another Grimme self-propelled harvester last season, moving floor trailers, tracked loader in the field along with aluminium trackway for the gateways.”
The lettuce is managed by Oisin O Gradaigh, who has over 20 years’ experience growing Salads.
“We grow lettuce from May until the end of October and a lot of our seasonal workers would work on the lettuce. We pay particular attention to the crops nutrition and we work with all of the nutrients across the board. Nutrition is a big thing.
“We have invested quite a bit in our lettuce growing as well. Last season we purchased a new stone burier, planters, Irrigation pumps, Irrigators with booms and water cleaning systems. We use GPS for marking out, bed forming etc.
“Most of the lettuce is packed on a rig in the field. All the lettuce supplied by Dockrells is vacuum cooled, to ensure the shelf life as good as we possibly can.”
Having joined the company in 1992, Paul himself had been immersed in farming growing up, before educating himself in horticulture.
For him, a career with John B Dockrell proved to be the perfect fit and, over the past quarter of a century or so, he has learned a huge amount about the industry to the point where now where he has arguably mastered it.
“I come from a farming family. After school, I couldn’t wait to get out onto the land,” said Paul.
“I went to Warrenstown and got my diploma in horticulture and went working on a fruit farm and then started working for John B Dockrell. In 2007, I got my BSc in Horticulture from ITB, Blanchardstown.”
Paul and Co are currently gearing up for a new season, and, looking back, he says without hesitation that 2018 was one of the most challenging years for John B Dockrell ltd.
While it came through successfully, the people behind the company will be hoping that 2019 has much more favourable weather for growing overall.
“It was certainly one of the hardest years we’ve had weather-wise,” the Farm Manager stated.
“We had a wet Spring, then snow followed by drought conditions that were never seen here before. So things were definitely difficult.
Ask Paul what the secret to the company’s success has been to date and he’ll give it to you plainly.
The Model County native cites “a quality product” as being the reason why – all going well – John B Dockrell Ltd will be celebrating three decades in existence next year.
“At all times we do our best to consistently deliver a quality product. At the end of the day, it’s all about the product that we put on the shelf,” he stated.
The quality and consistency at John B Dockrell earned some recognition this past December when the company won the award for Horticulture at the Bord Bia Origin Green Farmer Awards.
The award recognised the company as being among the top performing horticultural farms in the country producing high quality fresh produce.
With 12 companies shortlisted for the accolade, each finalist was visited by an independent judging panel and assessed across 17 sustainability topics that included crop husbandry, health and safety, farm labour, local community involvement, environmental/biodiversity measures and energy usage.
“I had got a phone call from Bord Bia to put our name forward. The awards were on December 12th and we were lucky enough to be successful,” explained Paul.
“It was really a big team effort from everyone and we were delighted to come out on top.”
Looking towards the year ahead, they’re hoping for more of the same at John B Dockrell while keeping fingers crossed for improved weather and better growing conditions.
“Hopefully it’s a better year weather-wise and we’re also hopeful that prices will rise as well,” Paul concluded.
John B Dockrell Limited
Tel: 053 912 7510
Taken from Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 7 No 1, February/March 2019