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Local farmers in international dairy campaign

May 20th, 2020 5:45 PM

By Emma Connolly

Enda Howley, Kerrygold's master cheese grader, sampling some of the cheese made from milk that came from Aidan McCarthy’s farms on the Mizen Head.

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TWO West Cork farmers are helping to connect worldwide audiences with locally-made dairy products, in an ad campaign that’s more important now than ever.

Aidan McCarthy, Schull, and Vanessa Kiely O’Connor, Upton – both former winners of our West Cork Farming Awards – were selected to feature in Ornua’s latest digital campaign which will air globally.

It will launch first in Germany, then the US, the UK and Ireland and is targeted at those who have a keen interest in high quality, sustainable dairy products, and who want to understand where their food comes from.

This new campaign is a follow on from last year’s ‘True Taste of Kerrygold,’ which put Irish farming families firmly in the spotlight, telling the story of Irish dairy farming.

In these new short, but beautifully-shot videos, both West Cork farmers tell the story of their grass fed dairy operations.

Locally, they are both very well-known as being ‘best in class,’ and were chosen by Ornua for their passion, dedication and commitment to making sustainable, quality Irish dairy produce.

Vanessa Kiely O’Connor on her family’s dairy farm at Upton.

Vanessa said that it was more important than ever to share their stories with new audiences, considering that 90% of the country’s dairy produce is exported.

‘Considering what’s happening globally, of course there are going to be concerns, particularly if milk prices drop. This is about real farmers, telling real stories and connecting more people with our products and sustaining exports to other countries,’ the mother of two said.

‘If I can help by telling my story – representing a family farm with a unique grass-based system – I’m happy to do that,’ she said.

Vanessa and Aidan’s cows are on grass 300 days a year.

Aidan said: ‘I’m very proud to be involved in a great campaign like this … Irish farming has a great story to tell and we shouldn’t be afraid to tell it.’

Aidan is the only farmer in West Cork with three milking platforms. He milks 165 cows at his home place in Air Hill, 110 in Dunbeacon which he bought in 2017 and this year added a herd of 120 at his new operation in Crewe Bay.

‘It’s a lot of work and it made for a busy Spring,’ he admits. ‘But I like the excitement and I’m getting better at delegating.’

Both Vanessa and Aidan are acutely aware of the potential for Covid-19 to impact their farms, directly and indirectly.

Aidan does the morning milking at his home place, and employs contract milkers to complete the other sessions. ‘We’re  very careful not to mix, and we keep our distance,’ he said.

Vanessa’s husband, David, works at Cork Airport: ‘He is now on reduced hours and income. We are no different to any other two-income family who has a mortgage. We have the expense of our son Fintan starting college this September in Dublin and daughter Sadhbh the following year, so we were never more dependent on the farm income. I’m milking 62 cows this year and don’t know what will happen with David’s job.

‘So if I as a farmer can support the people who market our dairy products at home and abroad, be it Bandon Co-Op, Carbery or Ornua by sharing our family farms grass based story, I am happy to do it.

‘Our grass-fed cows are what makes our Irish dairy products healthier and different from dairy anywhere else in the world.

‘As farmers we need our products to get to as many markets as possible, find new markets and keep the current customer base. It’s also great to see the image of a female farmer being presented as the norm in the Ireland of 2020.’

An Ornua spokesperson added: ‘Kerrygold creates shared value for Irish farming families through the premium it captures in many markets around the world. Achieving this premium is a direct result of brand and infrastructure investment in strategic markets for over 40 years. Today, Kerrygold is Ireland’s first €1 billion food brand, selling 8.6 million packets of butter each week.

‘The success of Kerrygold is due to a combination of a world-class product and well-invested brand. This continued brand investment will drive the next generation of success, creating shared value for the 14,000 Irish farming families we represent.’

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