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‘We’re happy to sacrifice tours for this’

June 7th, 2020 7:10 AM

By Emma Connolly

Among the founder members of West Cork Farm Tours are – from left – Michael and Marguerite Crowley, Bauravilla, Skibbereen; John Joe O’Sullivan and Avril Allshire, both Rosscarbery; Colette and Denis O’Donovan, Glandore; and Tommy Moyles, Ardfield.

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WEST Cork Farm Tours were looking forward to a bumper season ahead this summer, including an increase in US visitors.

The business, a collaboration between four leading family-run farms in the area, has being growing steadily since it was set up in 2017.

And this year they were hoping to ramp it up a level, but Covid-19 had other plans.

The tours see the farmers collaborate with local hotels and tour operators, to give both national and international visitors an immersive insight into a family-run dairy farm, and the experience has even featured in the Lonely Planet guide books.

Naturally those involved, dairy farmers Micheal and Marguerite Crowley, Skibbereen; John Joe and Theresa O’Sullivan, Rosscarbery; Denis and Colette O’Donovan, Glandore; along with pig farmers Willie and Avril Allshire, Rosscarbery are disappointed.

But according to Marguerite their absolute number one priority is to protect their farms, and Carbery.

‘We were feeling our way along for the first few years and were hoping for good numbers this year with groups booked in from Holland, Germany, and the US,’ she said.

Kerrygold is the second biggest selling butter in the US now, and the story of Irish grass dairy systems is one that goes down really well over there.

‘The American dairy system is mainly indoors. When they come to our farm and see the houses power washed for winter, and empty they can’t believe it,’ said Marguerite.

She said they were disappointed that the can’t welcome tours this summer, but pointed out a bigger picture, where farming had not been impacted too much by Covid-19.

‘We’re lucky as life has gone on pretty much as normal on farms. We have to be careful about things like distancing from milk lorry drivers when we’d normally chat to them, and of course now silage contractors have to bring their own food but outside of that, things are continuing on.

‘And of course our absolute priority is to protect Carbery from Covid-19. This is peak time for milk production and we’re happy to sacrifice one season of farm tours to do that.’

On the flipside, Marguerite said they were able to upgrade their facilities in preparation for future seasons, and that tour operators had been in touch to keep the lines of communication open.

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