In our new Meet the Maker series, we're shining the light on the many gifted producers behind some of Ireland's best food and drink brands. Today, we chat to Marita of Drummond House Garlic
Could you tell us a bit about the history of Drummond House Garlic?
Drummond House is a 100-acre farm situated in Baltray, Co Louth. Drummond has been in the Collier family for over 150 years. It was a traditional working farm laid out in mixed tillage, with sheep and cattle. We inherited the farm in 2008.
With 2 young children and a farm that needed restoring we had to plan for the future to ensure that a viable profitable growing business could be developed and expand to offer the next generation a sustainable business and quality of life here at Drummond.
We examined and researched Irish farming opportunities and quickly identified that traditional farming methods were not a viable Or sustainable option due to the high competition factors.
We researched and identified a gap in the Irish market for homegrown premium Irish Garlic and asparagus. Through numerous conversations and interviews with chefs, retailers, food writers and distributors we knew this untapped market was ready to be established and our direction and intention to fill this gap was confirmed.
With no history of growing garlic here at Drummond, we had to completely start our business from zero. We had no machinery or infrastructure in place when We planted our first garlic crop in 2013.
Now 7 years later through our innovation and creativity, we are recognized as Ireland’s first and only multi-award-winning Premium garlic and asparagus growers.
We created the first-ever Garlic Category on the Irish market offering new Flavours and varieties of garlic to the retail and foodservice market in Ireland. We created the first-ever Garlic Clove Packet for the retail market which is a great success.
We have for the first time in the history of Irish food offered a fresh homegrown Irish alternative to the retail and food service markets with what has traditionally been a 100% imported crop. We are very proud of this and have received fantastic support from government bodies like Dept of Agriculture, Tegasc , Fáilte Ireland, LEO Louth. We also gained our full Bord Bia certification in February 2020.
Why is using Irish ingredients important to your company?
Growing and producing 100% Irish is extremely important to us. Our business model shows that by identifying a gap in the market you can create a viable business that contributes to your community and environment. Over the past 5 years, the numbers of Irish growers is declining at a rapid rate. In Ireland, we can most certainly grow and sell fresh Irish produce that can replace imports. This gives local employment, better Food seasonality awareness Less environmental impact. If we lose all our small Irish growers and become dependent on a couple of large commercial growers and imports we will lose so much. Having small Irish growers educating and showing the importance and valuable role we play In society is now more than ever vital.
What is the biggest challenge that you face as a food producer in Ireland?
The biggest challenges I feel are climate change and education regarding real fresh produce. The consumer needs to be educated about the real cost and value of food and why a fair price is justified. Over the past few years the price for fresh fruit and vegetables has become totally unrealistic and under valued as the race to the bottom on the cheapest price is very evident. It is not realistic or right that fresh produce can be bought for 49 cents. Like any industry there is a minimum cost factor to grow fresh produce and a fair and realistic price needs to be paid to the producer. We need to change how people think about fresh produce and the value of it to ensure the future of horticulture in Ireland.
Climate change is also a very real challenge now and for the future in growing. We really have to look at new ways and accept that the seasons are changing. Longer periods of drought require growers to invest in irrigation as this is a real factor and over the past few years growers have lost substantial amounts of their crops due to lack of irrigation. We need to think about future weather conditions and the effects it will and is having on growing seasons.
What new trends do you see that are emerging in your industry?
Definitely the Irish consumer and food industry is demanding and seeking out more and more Irish produce and producers to work with. The consumer wants an Irish alternative to an imported product and they are discovering the vast array of quality Irish produce that is available in Ireland. People are enjoying discovering amazing produce and products and love knowing the provenance of what they are buying. People buy people and that is why they when they are informed about all the beautiful produce that is available they do make the switch to support Irish.
I also think that, with more of a move to the online sales platform even the very small producer has a new way without any big expense to sell and deliver their amazing products nationwide. Ireland is a small island and we all can now buy from Donegal to Cork Unique and premium produce and have it delivered to our door within 48 hours. This provides support to every small artisan business and location no longer becomes a barrier. I would hope more and more small producers can now have access to a much bigger market regardless of their location. This should encourage more people to start the business they always wanted without major expense.
Are there any major changes you would like to see in your industry?
I would like to see more fresh food markets being set up just like you see throughout Europe. Food and craft markets really do encourage, inform and invite the consumer to See the amazing produce that is available locally. It also gives a producer who may perhaps be a sole person working on their own an opportunity to engage with customers and build up relationships and elevate the sense of isolation that many producers do experience when they are a one-person business. There are amazing products and producers all over this island but for some, they don’t perhaps have the necessary sale skills they are required to drive your sales and get your product known. If we develop this culture of making a food market an experience like the English Market in Cork for example more available nationwide it would, of course, enhance and benefit every county in Ireland.
What has running your own business taught you?
Running my own business has taught me no one will ever push or drive your business like you yourself will. You need to do your research and develop something that is unique to you. If you have a success story you will, of course, be copied, so you must always master plan for your own business future.
Master planning is key, plan for the next 3, 5, 10y ears on new innovation, improvements to your work practice, climate change, and now even add in a pandemic happening. I certainly had a master plan in place for the next 3-5 years but I didn’t factor in COVID-19. There is always room for improvement no matter what stage you are at.
Who are some other Irish foodie brands you draw inspiration from?
I really admire Killenure Dexter Beef, Eavaun Carmody is a wonderful example of taking what is a time old traditional industry and completely creating a very unique business. Her story, vision and creativity alone is just amazing and I think is an excellent example of using a time old tradition and bringing it into the 21st century with her vision and innovation.
What’s next for the company?
We are launching our first-ever unique Garlic Scape Dip on the market in July. We have created and perfected a process to extend our garlic scape season and created our own recipe and this will be the first time to offer this new product to the Irish market.
We are going to focus on perfecting our own very unique techniques at growing garlic and asparagus to improve our sustainability and efficiencies.
We have been developing a whole new garlic smoking technique, machine and smoke blend over the past 2 years and will be launching our new Smoked garlic range this autumn.
As for the next 3-5-10 years, We have been running an R&D section for the past 3 years And will most definitely continue to create new value-added products that have never been created before in Ireland And Europe.
We have 2 very and even extraordinary never ever in the history of food products to Launch in 2020/2021 which I hope will absolutely amaze and excite everyone.
We will be looking at new business operating models for our business to go in new directions and expand to the export markets.
Find out more about Drummond House here