Irish growers turn over a new leaf with salads after mushrooms and snails

After Brexit put an end to their 24 years in the mushroom business, James and Barbara Quinn tried their hand at snail farming before settling on organic horticulture.

“The pandemic has created a newfound appreciation for natural, organic produce, and I think we hit the market at the right time,” says James, explaining their journey.

“When Brexit happened, we ended up having to close the farm as we were losing thousands every week.” With 24 years of mushroom farming behind them, James and Barbara were faced with the unknown.

James and Barbara had always been health-conscious and had an interest in organic produce, so when the National Organic Training Skillnet (NOTS) advertized one of their conferences, they attended and enrolled in the FETAC-accredited organic course with Jim Cronin.

“We learned a lot and we started growing and experimenting with different types of salads and vegetables in a greenhouse on the farm,” says James. “Soon after, we were growing a range of chemical-free produce, so we began selling at local farmers’ markets in Cahir and Clonmel. We also approached a couple of local independent retailers who agreed to take some of our produce.”

With things going well, the Quinns again saw expansion in the cards and contacted the Department of Agriculture for some advice on a National Development Plan scheme. Over the winter they completed the Supervalu Food Academy training and planted their first seeds in their new tunnel in spring.

“Supervalu took us on for our salad leaves and spinach leaves, which was fantastic. Through the Food Academy we got excellent training and advice,” says James. “The Local Enterprise Office provided us with excellent training in food safety, marketing and funding.” They achieved their organic certification this summer.

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