Without a doubt, you have heard of, tasted or seen one of the products from the West Cork company.
Glenilen Farms is run by Alan Kingston and his wife, of almost twenty years, Valerie. As Alan says himself he was just “an average farmer”, who “loved dairy cows”. Little did he know how the future would pan out, he himself thought “I was going to spend the rest of my days as a dairy farmer”.
Alan inherited his family farm back in 1995, which was a 59-acre plot of land with approximately 55 Friesian cows on the banks of the River Ilen. He followed on from his father and those before him who went into the dairy industry. Alan rented an extra stretch of land, taking his total up to 90 acres.
He married his beloved Valerie back in late 1997, and Alan recalls they had “no intention of setting up a business”. Valerie set off on a mission to West Africa in early 1997, where she began to educate the local nomad ladies on the nutritional values of cheese, as well as teaching them how it’s made. She then returned back to Ireland, where Alan was “still pining” for his new love. This is when the changes really began. Alan took charge of the farm, whilst Valerie dominated the kitchen.
How it all Began:
Like something from a history book, their success was not planned but it more came as pure coincidence. Valerie had developed a passion for creating her own dairy products through the years and continued this hobby when she returned home. Alan told us that upon her return she began producing yoghurts, endless supplies of yoghurts. Eventually, Alan says, “The fridge was full of yoghurt” so he told his wife to “go away and sell it, or give it away”.
Little did he know this would be the beginning of a great joint business venture.
Off Valerie went to Bantry, where she then began selling her products at local farmers markets, do a great degree of success. She also began making her own cheesecakes, which she also sold at farmers markets.
The real change began in 1998, after numerous months selling to local markets, the couple began to put a plan into action. Alan himself admits they are “Always looking at increasing their business through different means”.
With demand increasing, the couple decided to make a real go of it and took on some employees to help with the increased workload. From there, the couple have literally not looked back, developing further their business to great success.
Always looking for ways to improve the couple made their first major investment, building a cheese hall, by the milking parlour to ensure the freshest of produce is produced. This meant milk could be transported directly from the parlour to be made into cheese. This was the first real sign that the couple were in this for the long haul, and was helped out by funding from the Enterprise Board.
The development only continued with the family building an extension in 2008, a new factory adjacent to the farm which was 10,000 sq feet in size. This allowed production to be carried out separately from the farm and helped the business strive further. This allowed production to increase and increased the company's throughput.
Expanding further in 2012 they added an extension, which added a further 4,000 sq feet to the factory, though Alan says they are always looking to expand “a little bit more”.
The mantra behind Glenilen Farms is simple, Top quality ingredients to promote the “goodness of wholesome natural food”. Their products are free from any artificial additives and preservatives, making them tasty and healthy at the same time.
They also believe strongly in environmental conservation and are always looking at alternative renewable energy resources. Alan explained to me that currently on the farm they have “45 solar panels on the roof, which heats up to 50% of the whole years supply of water”. Not only this but the couple also harvest their own rainwater, which they treat themselves with chlorine for use in washdown.
They provide a range of products to their consumers, they make cheesecakes, yoghurts, creme fraiche, clotted cream, small desserts, butter, cream cheese, kids yoghurts and even Lemonade cordial!
Not only do they provide top quality, healthy products, but they have also recently opened up the gates to their farm along with 17 other farmers in the region. They allow for public walks and the occasional school tour. Although they don’t advertise this, such is the interest they have had over 30 schools attend their farm last year alone.
As mentioned above, the couple are always looking for ways to expand and improve. Alan mentioned that the company plans to add a further extension to the farm's factory, which would include a designated farm shop as well as an area for tourists. They recently announced a deal, made with Sainsbury’s in the UK, which will see them provide some of their products to the retailer for sale in the UK for a cool €500,000.
Having already become a widespread product in every county in Ireland, they have now begun their journey into the UK markets. Alan says though “there is a lot of work to do” as they look to expand further and added that they are “Always looking at increasing sales through different means”. The couple plan to continue as they are, gradually increasing their markets and improving sales.
As is the common denominator between a lot of businesses, Alan and Valerie won’t rest on their laurels and will continue their hard work for the foreseeable future.
To read all about the company or see their full product range, check out their website here and their Facebook page here.