Dressed for success: Meet the woman behind Farm Wardrobe
A Westmeath-based dairy farmer is dressed for success as the force behind Farm Wardrobe which specialises in farm clothing for individuals, breeding societies and agri businesses.
Alison Beattie previously worked in the pedigree sector in a livestock market in Carlisle, UK, and as marketing manager for a global AI company following graduation from Harper Adams College.
“I grew up in Randalstown. My mum worked for an animal feed company and my dad installed Westfailia milking parlours and then went on to sell dairy supplies travelling around dairy farms,” Alison said.
“My sister always sent me off with dad, helping him fit or service and so the love for agriculture began at the age of three or four and I learned the trade directly from being his shadow,” she said.
“Determination to follow a career in agriculture was initiated from a refusal to a local college due to lack of farm experience. This fueled my fire to get as much farm experience in every way possible to show them I was serious about agriculture,” said Alison.
“I took on milking jobs; carting silage; feeding pigs; collecting eggs; pheasant rearing; and then started showing cows at my local Antrim Show for Gaston Wallace.
“It snowballed from there and meeting livestock photographers Shelia Metcalfe and Jane Steel; they took me all over the UK to help photograph pedigree dairy cattle.”
Alison started Harper Adams Agricultural College in 1997 and graduated with a degree in agriculture with animal science (BSc Hons) in 2001.
“Midway was a placement year during which I developed my passion for Holsteins at the Alta Genetics nucleus herd in Calgary, meeting and making many great contacts in the business,” Alison said.
After graduating she went straight to Vancouver Island to take and prepare cattle over to the east coast – five days’ truck ride – to sell at the Stanhope Wedgwood Sale which she describes as one of the most prestigious names in the Canadian Holstein breeding industry.
She was then headhunted by Harrison & Hetherington Auctioneers, Borderway Mart, Carlisle, to take on the role of dairy co-ordinator.
“This was one year after the foot-and-mouth outbreak which significantly damaged the area. This role was to organise, catalogue and market – pre-sale and post-sale – pedigree dairy sales in the UK.
In 2006, I was approached by Cogent Breeding to step into the role of UK marketing manager. This experience was amazing and allowed me to promote the practices of the UK’s only sexed semen production, Custom Collection, involving all breeds of bulls coming from Europe to be collected for AI. I loved every minute of it.
Alison got married in 2009 and moved back to Ireland. “My husband is Norris Beattie, originally from Co. Wicklow, so we are both blow-ins to Delvin.
“We farm 200ac of owned land and 100ac of rented land. We are a pedigree Holstein dairy farm, milking approximately 120 to 150 all year on a liquid milk contract supplied to Glanbia,” Alison said.
“Farm Wardrobe was established in 2011 based around an online platform allowing all types of farmers to promote their own farming business in an affordable way without the need for a fancy designed logo,” she said.
“With a background in designing adverts for breed journals; banners; flyers; and logos, I was asked if the logo designed could be put on polo shirts. Getting a third party to do this for me did not make me any money, so I decided to research how could I cut out the middle man and here we are eight years later,” Alison said.
“The name, Farm Wardrobe, was decided on a college girlie trip and I went with it from that moment. I have been lucky to have been awarded two Leader grants to buy my first embroidery machine and just last year to increase capacity to a six-head and so keep four part-time and one full-time staff employed,” she said.
“Farm Wardrobe promotes agriculture through branded clothing and promotional products. We believe we are the only company in Europe specialising in this business. There are three target markets: family farms; breed societies; and agri businesses.
“We provide clothing from head-to-toe, ranging from 0 to six months up to 6XL. Key brands include: Regatta; Result; Toggi; Baleno; Papini; Uneek; TuffStuff; Ariat; and Grubs.
“Online purchasers can select products on the website and customise or personalise them using one of our farm logos which include: cattle; sheep; horses; tractors; and machinery.
There are also kitchen and children’s farming logos. Text can then be added with the option of text colour, text font or shape. The order is processed, embroidered and dispatched by a next-day courier within a seven to 10-day lead time.
“Social media is our main driver for sales and we find we can get information out on new products, tips and special offers very quickly. With over 10,500 likes on Facebook, we find the feedback tremendous on what our customers like, want and react to. Our customers are based predominately all over Ireland,” she said.
“As a web-based company we also ship to all parts of the UK and to Switzerland, Italy and France. We understand farmers and are passionate about our industry. We believe that farmers and agri businesses deserve to look the best they can from on-trend fashion, workwear or corporate wear.
“We source quality clothing and promotional products with the farmers in mind, based on quality; durability; washability; and waterproofability. We live and breathe it everyday. We offer the unique service of branding business, online or offline, using one of the farm logos,” said Alison.
“The best sellers are our Regatta softshell ranges in ladies and gents’ bodywarmers or jackets; Toggi ladies and gents’ quilted range of jackets and bodywarmers; Sandown/Esher in ladies; men’s Kendal jackets; and Tiverton bodywarmers.
“We recently acquired Ariat western boots and they are flying. Also popular are our pink overalls, polos and hoodies. Particularly popular is our breed merchandise ranges for all the progressive breed societies.”
Farm Wardrobe started in the house. “Then I converted a garage into an on-farm office. At that stage I hired a portakabin to carry out the embroidery and hold stock using the converted garage as a showroom.
“In the last two years we invested in a new building with an extended office and workshop / stock room all in one building,” Alison said.
Farm Wardrobe is a busy enterprise that complements farm and family life. “I pop out to the office first thing in the morning at around 4:30am to 5:00am for an hour or an hour-and-a-half. Then I go milking for an hour before I get the three children out for school at 8:15am.
“I enjoy the milking time with my husband as we have mini board meetings and chat about issues, ideas or how to tackle certain situations. It’s an uninterrupted hour together – could you call it romantic?” quipped Alison who also helps out with weekend night and morning milking.