Higgins Potatoes is a family-run farm which produces potatoes, carrots and cereals outside Athboy in Co. Meath. The enterprise was set up over 40 years ago by Frank Higgins who is still involved with his wife Breda, sons Keith and Cormac, and Keith’s wife Maria.
The Higgins’ are passionate about growing and supplying products of the highest quality. Each year, they grow 150 acres of potatoes, 200 acres of cereals and 12 acres of carrots. The potatoes are Rooster, the cereals are mostly spring barley, while the carrots are Nairobi variety.
The potatoes are supplied to Sam Dennigan & Co in Oldtown, North Dublin, the barley to Glanbia in Athboy and Goldcrop in Ardee, and the carrots to Milne Foods in Birr. The Higgins’ enjoy an excellent relationship with their customers as Keith explains: “My father has been dealing with Sam Dennigan & Co for more than 40 years, so we go back a long way. We supply the potatoes in 7.5kg bags and boxes. They end up on the shop shelves of Dunnes Stores outlets across Ireland.
“The cereals are supplied to Glanbia and Goldcrop for feed. We branched into carrots three years ago. After harvesting, they are sent to Milne Foods to be processed for the hotel and restaurant industry.”
Meath is one of the main potato growing areas in Ireland, being renowned for its Loamy soil which holds plenty of moisture and also drains well so that sufficient air can reach the roots.
“Our potatoes are Bord Bia Quality Assured and are noted for their quality and taste. Meath is synonymous with potato growing. There are quite a few other growers in our area. The soil type here is particularly suited to growing the humble spud,” Keith says.
Rooster is the only variety of potato grown by the Higgins’ and for good reason. Rooster is a red-skinned potato with a light, floury texture. They are uniformly roundish in shape with shallow eyes, making them easy to peel. They can be boiled, mashed, chipped, roasted, steamed or baked and a firm favourite with Irish consumers.
“We grow Rooster because there is a greater market for them than any other variety. They’re great for any meal, and are a multi-purpose and extremely versatile potato.”
Nairobi is a second early / main crop carrot variety that is capable of producing high yields of very good quality roots. The bright orange roots have a good carrot flavour with a small core.
There is no such thing as a quiet time of the year for the Higgins team. They start off the year sowing spring barley. The first of the potato crops are sown in late April, followed by the carrots in May. The harvest gets underway at the end of August when the spring barley is cut. That is followed by the potato harvest in late September and the carrot harvest at the end of October. Of course, all of this is subject to weather conditions.
Once harvested, the potatoes are weighed, polished, graded and packed in an on-site production facility that boasts state-of-the-art Herbert washing and polishing machines, a Newtec weigher, a new Upmatic bagger which was supplied by Kevin Woods Machinery, and cold storage facilities.
Higgins Potatoes have an array of machinery to sow, maintain and harvest their crops. The family runs a modern fleet of tractors comprising four Valtra (T214x2, T170 and A550), a New Holland TVT195 and a new Steyr 300hp tractor. They also operate a wide range of Grimme destoners, Maschio rotavators and sowers, Structural potato planters, Kverneland ploughs, an Amazone sprayer, a Rauch fertilizer spreader along with forklifts and telehandlers.
Maintenance and repairs of machinery are carried out in-house as well as by Cian Gaffney Agri Repairs in Bailieboro and the main dealers.
“We have our own equipment to carry out the ploughing, sowing, harvesting and spraying,” continues Keith, whose 13-year-old son Jack is showing a keen interest in the business.
“Our aim is to be as self-sufficient as possible. We are constantly upgrading our machinery which allows us to provide an efficient, professional and value-for-money service. We recently took delivery of our first Steyr tractor from Mid-Louth Garage who are great to deal with it. An Austrian brand, the Steyr came with a five-year warranty and we’ve been very impressed with it so far.
“We have a wealth of experience behind us and pride ourselves in our excellent produce. Above all else, we want to ensure that our customers are 100% happy with our products and service.”
Needless to say, Keith is concerned about rising costs across the board which are putting many farm enterprises to the pin of their collar.
“The prices we get for our products aren’t in keeping with the soaring energy, fuel and fertilizer costs. Even parts for machinery have all gone up by 10-15% in the last while. It’s a global thing which was driven by Covid for the past two years and now by the war in Ukraine. We’re just going to have to deal with it, but it goes without saying that food prices will have to go up as well.”
The Higgins family would like to take this opportunity to thank their customers and suppliers for their continued support, and also their staff for their hard work, dedication and expertise.
Telephone: 087 938 7915
Email: [email protected]
First published in Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 10 No 4, July/August 2022