In this Producer Profile, we sit down with Katherine O’Hanlon of Jackdaw Farm.
Jackdaw Farm is a no-spray, no-dig, small-scale market garden, based in Drumone, Co. Meath owned by Katherine and Danny O’Hanlon.
Jackdaw Farm was started in 2018 after Katherine spent 10 years working on organic farms throughout the US and Ireland. It took a long time and hard work, but they were eventually able to purchase a couple acres and get stuck in!
Katherine is originally from Upstate New York and has worked on farms all across the USA & Ireland. She is the farmer, getting her hands dirty and making the farm as efficient and beautiful as possible.. Danny is originally from Dundalk, Co. Louth. He currently works off farm, but helps out with any jobs that allow him to wear headphones. He is their website, recipe blog and slug removal expert. They grow lots of leafy greens, herbs, assorted vegetables and fruits. You can purchase their produce at their roadside stall and various markets throughout the Boyne Valley when things are back to normal but for now all their amazing produce is available on the Great Northern Larder Boyne Valley Food Shop (www.gnl.ie)
Katherine says one of the positives about working in food is the collaboration with other growers. “It’s a great way to make lifelong friends, support and engage with members of your community and receive advice and guidance when you’re facing difficult times.”
On the negatives she tells us that “a lack of understanding among the general population about our current food system and what it means to eat seasonally has caused me the most difficulty as a grower. If I am not being criticised for my prices being higher than that of Lidl or Aldi, than I am being berated for not having tomatoes in May. I struggle not to take it personally and some days it really hurts.”
Being a member of the Boyne Valley Flavours for Katherine means “I am a part of a growing community that strives to create jobs, provide essential products and refocus the attention on Irish grown food.”
The advice Katherine would offer to anyone looking to start up a food business is that “Starting a business requires you to be truly dedicated and committed beyond your ability. It is a truly humbling experience and you will have bad days where you want to give up, but you just have to let that feeling pass and keep going. So start small, go slow and survive! We need small businesses, now more than ever.”
Of course we couldn’t ignore the current Covid-19 crisis and Katherine tells us that the biggest impact they have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic has come from the travel restrictions and access to supplies. “When we are stopped by Garda or attempt to order necessary supplies our small-scale status becomes an issue and it is up to the individual we are speaking to on the day to decide whether we are truly essential. This issue is deeper than just COVID-19. It stems from problems within our own food system and our own food supply and the continued belief that unless you are growing for supermarkets, you are not actually an essential food producer. As you can imagine, not having access to basic supplies or being able to deliver produce can have a major impact on the success of our business.”
Jackdaw Farm Recipe Suggestion
Katherine’s favourite thing to make with her produce is a big salad, using rainbow chard and cut up the stalks like you would with celery. It adds colour and crunch! Then add whatever greens or herbs you have as well as some scallions, radishes, beetroot or carrots, depending on what’s in season. The two most important parts of any salad, in her opinion, are the little extra goodies and the dressing. She likes to crumble in cheese, walnuts and green olives. And for her favourite dressing uses extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, a clove of garlic, basil and a pinch of salt and pepper and she never really measures anything! It’s better that way!
Jackdaw Farm can be found at the following markets once they are back in operation and also on the Boyne Valley Food Shop at www.greatnorthernlarder.com
THURSDAYS - Ardee Town Market from 9AM to 2PM
FRIDAYS - Dundalk Market Square from 10AM to 3PM
SATURDAYS - Navan Solstice Market from 10AM to 3PM
SUNDAYS - Roadside Farm Stall from 10AM to 3PM
Collinstown Farmers Market from 11:30AM to 2PM on the 4th Sunday of Every Month
For more information visit their website and sign up to their newsletter https://www.jackdawfarm.com/