West Limerick free-range pork producers ‘ready to move on’

Having built up a successful farm enterprise and guesthouse in west Limerick, Caroline and Joe Rigney are ready to move on and are looking forward to new ventures.

The Rigneys, who made the big move from a housing estate in Celbridge to living in a garage in Kilcornan while their house was being built, are seeking a new path – now that their children have grown up, and grandchildren have arrived.

“We always wanted to farm and found the 16ac of land in Limerick by accident. We had been looking up our side of the country but couldn’t afford anything. We were visiting friends in Limerick when we saw this land was for sale,” said Caroline.

After buying the land, they stayed in Kildare while building started and then moved into the garage when it was constructed.

“Joe got work in landscaping, which he had been doing in Dublin, straight away. We got involved in the local community – Joe in the GAA and I joined the local flower club,” Caroline said.

“We got to know other parents after our daughters Rebecca, now 28, and Rachel, now 26, started school locally and we also brought them to mass.

Getting involved in your local community is something I would advise anyone moving to rural Ireland to do. We were very quickly brought into the local community.

The couple built up the farm from scratch, keeping hens and ducks, growing vegetables and later getting into rare breed pigs, specialising in Tamworths.

“We built the house with the view of some day having a bed and breakfast. We didn’t have the money at the time but a guesthouse in a small way materialised pretty quickly, thanks to referrals from other operators in the area and TripAdvisor reviews.”

Free-range pork

Running the guesthouse led to the starting of an artisan food enterprise, focused on free-range pork.

“I had always wanted to do something with food. As I was running a bed and breakfast, I thought it would be fabulous if I could have my own rashers and sausages and that became my unique selling point.

Getting approval took time and there was a lot of learning involved.

“At the moment, we have 60 pigs of all ages as well as two Shorthorn cows and three Jacob ewes and a Jacob ram that mow the lawns and amuse the guests,” Caroline said.

She currently supplies: two farmers’ markets; The Strand Hotel, Limerick; and two restaurants with free-range pork. “People like to see locally-produced free-range pork and want to find out more about it.”

Ready for change

It has been a busy but rewarding lifestyle for Caroline and Joe but they are ready for a change. “We’re both 52. The kids have grown up and gone and we have two grandchildren. I think you need to re-evaluate things when you begin to be called ‘granny’.

We could do this forever but life is a journey. We want to do something different in life – you only get one spin around.

“If you asked me two years ago if I could see ourselves selling up, the answer would have been ‘no’. However, now we are thinking of doing something different and maybe less physical.

“We would like to stay in this community; it’s a fabulous community. We are also close to Curraghchase forest park which is beautiful.

“We have thought long and hard about leaving the property but, really and truly, it is a change that we want and we are ready to move on,” Caroline said.

The two-storey house has six en-suite bedrooms. The property includes an EHO-approved processing unit to artisan level; six stables; a three-bay hay shed and 50ft polytunnels.

There is plenty of potential for the new owners to put their stamp on the property, Caroline contended.

“They could put up electric gates and retreat behind them and that would be fine or, if they wanted my recipes, I would pass them and the brand on.

“There is an ideal opportunity to go for a high-end bed and breakfast and do a small amount of meat production,” she said.

For sale through Geraldine Leddin Properties, the property has a guide price of over €850,000. Further information is available from the selling agent at 65 O’Connell Street, Limerick, on: 061-467188.