Keeping it in the family

10 Aug , 2015  

The Whyte family of the Naul, Co Dublin beat off stiff competition to be crowned Leinster winners of the FBD UN Year of Family farming awards at the National Ploughing Championships in 2014. Speaking to Irish Tractor & Agri, Ollie Whyte revealed the secrets behind their success as they go forward to contest the overall national prize.

With 2014 named the International Year of Family Farming, the UN Year of Family Farming awards were designed to recognise the critical role which the family farm plays in food security, nutrition and sustainable development.

To make the shortlist, entrants had to send in a detailed entry form under the following headings: family product and place, community and voluntary contribution, and coping with challenge.

The scheme attracted entrants from all over the the country and they were whittled down to four regional winners who are now in the running for the overall top award. The Whyte family will fly the flag for Leinster.

Were they surprised when their name was read out?

“Of course it came as a surprise, we were up against very formidable opposition and the fact that we came out on top is something that we take great pride in,” Ollie Whyte proudly stated.

The overall impression by judges upon their visit to the farm was also a factor. The judging panel, which comprised Tim O’Connell from FBD, Katherine O’Leary from the Irish Farmers Journal and John Keating from Teagasc, visited a shortlist of 25 farms before reaching their decision.

The three judges couldn’t have failed to have been impressed with the Whyte-run operation. The family farm approximately 3,000 acres in north Co Dublin and boast the unique claim to fame of having seven brothers and their sons working full-time in the business.

Ollie is joined by his six siblings, Jimmy, Peter, Eddie, Joey, Martin and Anthony, in the day-to-day running of the business and the next generation, their sons, Peter, James, Dermot, David, Peadar, Kevin and Joseph, are following in their footsteps.

Their substantial business focuses on tillage, cereals, potatoes and a straw business with a winter feeding enterprises. Each one has his own area of responsibility and the decision making process and workload is shared equally. Ollie agrees that was a key ingredient in their winning formula.

“There are 14 families living full-time off the farm which is fairly unique.

“The seven young lads work well with us. I know it may be hard for some to believe but there very rarely any friction. Everything gets well debated but everyone gets on well. We’re also lucky that we have seven wives, with marriages spanning 40 to 30 years, who are very supportive. Behind every man is a great woman as they say.

“We envisage that we will be slowing down now and the young lads will take over more of the business. That’s an ongoing process.”

It wasn’t off the ground that Ollie and his brothers licked their passion for farming. The Whyte family can trace their roots back to 1792 and a small farm in the Naul. They have come along way from humble beginnings.

“The present business was started by our parents Peter and Bridget Whyte and the first of the current generation joined them in the fifties. They started off with fifteen acres in the forties and the first substantial piece of land (200 acres) was purchased in 1953. That was added to all the way through to the nineties and brought up to 1,000 acres.”

A continuous commitment to moving with the times and embracing modern technology has stood the Whyte family in good-stead down through the years.

Earlier this year, for example, they installed a new 2.5MW biomass burner which helped reduce their annual drying costs by 75pc and provide a home grown, renewable source of energy. The farming family have also engineered and built their own bale lifter for the huge furnace.

“Over the years we have built up one of the most modern farms in the country, equipped with modern technology and the quality of our produce is top end.

“On the judges’ visit to our farm they were greatly impressed with our comprehensive computerised records. This leads to our being able to provide full tracebility of our products. We try to run the farm as efficiently as possible and have succeeded in doing this for the past 45 years and we look forward to continuing this successfully into the future.”

Whytes Family Farm
Co. Dublin

Taken from Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 2 No 7, December 2014