Sun, sea and potatoes

Situated in the picturesque setting of Kilcoole Co Wicklow, with a view of the nearby ocean and the Sugar Loaf Mountain, Brady’s Potato Farm is ideally situated to produce quality Irish potatoes. “We’re lucky here,” said John Brady, “If we were inland or up in Meath we couldn’t produce what we produce here. The temperature is always three or four degrees higher here making it ideal.”

The Brady story began a long time ago, when John’s grandfather won 100 pound in a raffle. Instead of moving to England like many of his friends to find a job at the time, the then young man invested in potato seed. Within years he was managing a thriving business.

Handed down through generations the 140-acre farm produces Queen, Homegrown and Rooster potatoes for the Irish market. Brady admits the farm has lost character over the years to accommodate new regulations, removing old farmhouses and replacing them with modern structures, but that this is required to be a competitive potato producer today.

Despite their success, the Brady’s still have to contend with the high cost of farming potatoes. “People were complaining last year when the price of potatoes increased. The fact is the bad weather meant we had to do three times as much work to produce a smaller amount of potatoes than usual. Our expenses increased and unfortunately that had to be passed onto the consumer,” he explained.

This season’s potatoes will be of high quality due to stable weather conditions, but cosmetic issues such as scabbing; where lesions appear on the potato, are likely due to the lack of rainfall during the summer. Brady warned that consumers sometimes mistake this for being a defect in a potato, but in fact it has no effect on the potatoes or consistency.

Today the Brady Farm was producing Queen Potatoes, to be transported to Dublin for sale. Its biggest competition is the washed Roosters, which the farmers claim consumers choose due to lack of knowledge about why dirt is necessary on a potato. “New season potatoes cannot be washed, otherwise they will go green within hours. Consumers are put off by the dirt and buy washed roosters instead,” Brady. “I feel people are missing out on a quality potato.”

Lack of knowledge on the consumers side is an issue today he admitted, also citing confusion over the ‘New Season Potato’ labelling in supermarkets. “People buy new season thinking they’re Irish, but they could be new season for Israel, or Cyprus. The label needs to read ‘New Season Irish Potatoes’. Foreign potatoes are not going to produce jobs in Ireland.”

As part of the National Potato Day campaign Bord Bia have launched the website, which offers nutritional information and recipes for potatoes, as well as information on upcoming events as part of National Potato Day on 23 August.
AgriLand will feature all things potatoes leading up to the great National Potato Day.

By Colm McGlinchey

Images: A slide show of a Bord Bia’s Farm Visit and Masterclass with
Catherine Fulvio, Ballyknocken Cookery School on Friday