The plant manager at The Village Dairy in Clonmore, Killeshin, on the Carlow/Laois border, which specialises in ‘craft milk and cream products’, has diversified to support local producers.

Kenny Hurley, who works at the plant three days a week, said that the dairy which is supplied by six farmers lost 75% of its business during Covid-19.

In March, The Village Dairy, which was established in 2015, had been supplying hotels, restaurants, cafes and other businesses as it gained a reputation for the quality and taste of its milk. Its Jersey milk has proven to be particularly popular with baristas.

In March, the dairy did a surprise doorstep drop as it distributed some of its excess milk free of charge, left after some businesses were forced to close.

Kenny said that he was keen to diversify. With a passion for small-scale food production, he set up Bia Ur to bring consumers high-quality fresh food sourced from artisan producers.

‘Greater interest in provenance’

He said one positive aspect of the pandemic was that it resulted in more people seeking out food from small local producers.

“With people cooking and baking more, there has been a greater interest in provenance and we got a huge response to our buttermilk and eggs. My aim is to give people the best of what every county has to offer. At the moment, we are focused on Carlow, Kilkenny, Kildare, Laois and Dublin,” Kenny said.

“Currently, we are supplying free range eggs; juices; bread; scones; fruit; jams; chutneys; vegetables; and meat with an online shop coming very soon, and doorstep delivery locally.

“We do ’rounds’ like the traditional milk round, in Carlow, south Laois and south Kildare. Coming from a background of small-scale production, I wanted to be a help for artisan producers in getting into the marketplace,” Kenny said.

When you produce food on a small scale, you generally end up with a superior product. With locally produced foods, you might not get the shelf life of  mass-produced products but the quality will usually be excellent. The feedback on taste has been great. We are also diversifying in dairy, with a new product to be launched soon.

“When consumers choose to buy from small-scale producers, local economies benefit and it’s also a greener option. Our milk comes from inside a 10-mile radius and goes straight into the plant and is processed within a couple of hours,” said Kenny.

“My plan is to expand to support more producers around the country. Everyone is struggling to keep going at the moment and more people are thinking about the food they eat.”