‘Don’t go straight into retail before you are ready, take baby steps.’ From Down Under to the heart of The Golden Vale: The joy of taking things slowly on Magner’s Farm
We recently sat down with one of our GS1 Ireland members, Kylie Magner of Magner’s Farm, which is based in Fethard, Co. Tipperary. She filled us in on the history of Magner’s, their biggest successes to date and what the future has in store for the Co. Tipperary farm.
Kylie’s updates on social media are always a joy. From the videos of her hens rushing out of their sleeping quarters into
the lush grasslands, to photos of the guard alpacas Steve and Alan, to portraits of her kids doing their homework in the company of fluffy yellow chicks. It’s hard not to smile and it’s easy to see that Kylie has a background in marketing, advertising, design and media management, which she says have all contributed to the success of Magner’s Farm. ‘ It helps to be able to tell the story of our connection to animals, our farming practices and our ongoing relationship with consumers.’
Kylie has agricultural in her blood, having grown up on a farm in Australia, where her family raised cattle, sheep and grew cereal crops. However, when it came to starting her own enterprise, Kylie wanted to create a venture that her four children could be involved in. Egg-laying hens seemed like a good option, as Kylie and her husband wanted something that could be profitable quickly. Having purchased the farm in 2004, it wasn’t until 2017 when they returned from Australia, where they both had been working full time, that they started Magner’s Farm. Their aim was to produce food products that are both nutritious and ethically produced. As Kylie puts it,
‘ Our hens spend their days grazing on chemical-free, natural grass with fresh air and clean water. At night they retire to their warm custom-built shed’. The result, she says, are ‘ delicious, nutritionally dense, chemical-free eggs from happy hens’. Biggest Successes to Date
Having started out on a ‘negative budget’, they have enjoyed tremendous growth over the past two years, ‘
we are becoming more and more profitable and there is a strong and increasing demand for our products’. So much so, that Kylie says that it can be hard to keep up with demand for their eggs. That’s not all, they have also won the Chef's Choice Award in 2018 at the Blas na hÉireann Irish Food Awards for their chicken bone broth. ‘ Winning Blas gave us national exposure and opened our eyes to possibilities in retail that we had not previously considered. It’ s well respected by chefs in Ireland and the food community as a whole and with independent judges, it is seen as the ‘ golden seal of approval’ on your product.’ Getting Barcodes with GS1 Ireland
Kylie participated in the Food Starter Programme and then the Supervalu Food Academy, where GS1 Ireland was recommended to her. When asked how she found the process of getting her products barcoded, Kylie said that,
‘ the fact that it is all online is great, when you have your own business, your time is very limited, the fact that you can just log in, get your barcodes and away you go is very attractive’. With a niche product like chicken bone broth, it was a little challenging to figure out what category it came under, but Kylie said, ‘ that was the only challenge I encountered’. Plans for 2019
Kylie and her husband Billy are going to have a very busy 2019 if their ambitious plans are anything to go by. As well as increasing their flock size to keep up with the demand for their eggs, they are planning to build a commercial kitchen on site so that they can produce their chicken bone broth right there on the farm. She is also planning to implement some new soil management techniques in order to make the best use of the natural fertiliser created by the hens. If that wasn’t enough, they have also applied for organic status which requires going through a 12-month trial period to make sure that the farm is meeting organic standards. Thankfully, they only had to change their feed to organic as they were already naturally implementing the recommended practices.
Advice for Up and Coming Irish Food Producers When asked for the advice she would give to other up and coming Irish food producers about getting into retail, Kylie recommended taking things slowly, ‘Don’t go straight into retail before you are ready, take baby steps; you need to have your production schedule and ordering process sorted before entering retail. That way, all hiccups can be dealt with beforehand’. However, she says that just going through the process can help your business. 'Retail has very high standards and many requirements you have to meet, this can be a helpful process to go through for improving your business standards in general’. Kylie also said that it’s important to believe in what you are doing and make a genuine connection with your customers. ‘Be confident in your product from the very beginning, start by speaking directly to your customers; at farmers markets, at tastings etc. listen to their feedback. Consumers are more educated than ever about animal welfare, farming practices and food production’.
For more information on Magner’s Farm, click
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