Wexford family ‘fit’ to take on the challenges of farming

The Syme family from Co. Wexford have proven they are fit to take on the changing dynamics of farming with their re-launched enterprise, ‘The Stables Fitness and Wellbeing’.

The family’s first diversification project was blackcurrants.

They produced up to 70ac annually; but, unfortunately, market forces drove them out as they couldn’t complete with cheaper produce coming from Eastern Europe.

Twenty-five years ago the family, who farm 250ac just outside Gorey, went into Christmas tree production. This is where the main farming business remains – alongside their tillage and store lamb fattening enterprises.

Fitness – their latest endeavour – came about six years ago; soon after the current custodians of the family farm, Patrick and Anna Syme, had their first child.

As a chartered surveyor by trade, Anna had carved out a successful career for herself in the industry. However, after facing a daily commute to Dublin for some time Anna’s priorities changed. She turned her focus towards the farm and unleashing its potential.

She re-qualified as a personal trainer and, together with her husband, invested in the conversion of one of the farm’s 250-year-old outbuildings into a gym.

‘Anna Syme Personal Training’ offered a serene setting to those keen to get fit.

“I began to utilise the natural assets of the farm. The hills and headlands became running tracks; and the beech and oak-lined avenue became a tranquil warm-up zone in an environment which clients found to be good for both body and soul,” Anna said.

“The resulting endorphins proved to be addictive for many and over the past six years, the business has grown its footprint and client base.

The former hay and machinery shed contains the indoor / outdoor gyms; the yoga and pilates studio is housed in one of the old stone buildings.

“We even have our own trail run and obstacle course called ‘The Steeplechase’. It will host its first major public event on June 23 of this year. It will involve a chip-timed trail run and obstacle course over a choice of a 5km or 8km route,” said Anna.

‘Farmer clients’

“The business has evolved and grown slowly over time. From the moment our first client came down the avenue, our focus has always been on the individual client and their goals,” she said.

“We self-funded the internal refurbishments of the buildings over the six years by using savings principally and then re-investing into the business,” said Anna.

“There have been highs and lows throughout the process. Like any other new business; every day is a challenge in terms of ensuring that we are inspiring and motivating our clients so they achieve the results they desire,” she said.

“Every year we’re seeing an increase in the numbers attending; it has given us the confidence that we are hopefully doing something right. We have had the opportunity to expand our offerings a little every year and invest a little further with more equipment,” said Anna.

Patrick continues to farm. The farming business runs alongside the fitness business and the two work very well together. Patrick is also now a qualified gym instructor and has joined our team of trainers as an additional support.

“We have several farmers as clients and I believe they would all say that they find The Stables a comfortable and enjoyable environment in which to get fit,” said Anna.

Farm and family life continue and merge seamlessly with the fitness and well-being centre. The set-up allows Anna and Patrick to have the family life they wanted.

“The farm now also provides a variety of opportunity in the future for our three children – though that is a few years off yet,” Anna said.