Maperath Farm is a multi-faceted enterprise that was the brainchild of Eoin and Olivia Sharkey.
Eoin is a carpenter by trade and spent his childhood in the country watching and helping out on his uncle’s farm, milking cows and dragging bales of hay from here to there.
The couple got married in 2007 and bought a plot of land for their horses that they had at the time.
As the economy was in 2008, work in the carpentry trade dwindled and they decided to use what land they had to invest in some turkeys and geese.
It was Olivia who suggested getting some turkeys after their small gaggle of geese had been taken by foxes.
The Sharkey’s would rear a small number of different animals for their own consumption as they encourage sustainable and organic farming.
Eoin really had a different take on Olivia’s suggestion, as when she meant ‘five’ he went ahead and purchased 100 day-old turkeys to rear in preparation for the Christmas season.
Having attended night classes in Ballyhaise Agricultural College and completed his Green Cert when they had purchased the land, he decided that it was time to put it to good use.
It was agreed that Olivia would oversee the marketing and sales of the turkey business while Eoin would manage the poultry. The first year was a huge success as the farmers sold out of their product.
Their couple has three young daughters; Anna (9), Kate (7) and Sage (4). Anna was attending primary school and would tell all her classmates about the animals that her parents kept on their farm, such as lambs, goats, chickens and pigs.
With some encouragement from the teachers at his daughter's Montessori school, Eoin agreed to bring some of his goats to the school for the children to experience. This was a big success with the children, many of who would have not seen farm animals in such close proximity.
Later that year, Eoin brought some of his hens, ducks and chickens to Sheridan’s Food Festival in Co. Meath and they received an enthusiastic reception.
The farmer began to see an opening in the market for education around the animals, and so began the mobile farm.
Animal welfare is of the utmost priority to the educator; he ensures that animals are put into individual pens while visiting a school and that the animals will stand on AstroTurf instead of bare cement.
The other point that Eoin is keen to stress is that “It’s all about education. The animals don’t have names, they have a number, every one of them has a role to play on the farm."
Just the other day, three of the hens laid eggs in their laying boxes at the school. “It was brilliant for the kids to see” he enthused, however, there were a number of questions that highlighted the necessity for the lesson.
Over the five years since the mobile farm was established, Eoin has brought his animals into at least 200 schools and has seen thousands of children. Some of the questions that are asked of him are rather cute, if not slightly worrying.
The child asked, “where are the numbers on the eggs?” unknowingly thinking that it should have been laid with an expiry date printed on it. Another suggested that they thought that rashers were “shaved off” a pig or that a pig “pooped” sausages.
Eoin says that some of the farming game apps don’t help with the education of the lifecycle of a farm and its animals. In the virtual reality world, there is no end-of-life scenario as children are protected from the truths when it comes to where their food comes from.
The mobile farmer is clear about his education styles and would let small children simply experience being in close proximity to the animals. As the age groups change, the farmer’s focus is more on the foodstuffs that can be produced by certain animals and they strive to put it all into context.
“We would talk about how much milk cows produce and give the children examples by explaining that Ireland produces 11,000 blocks of butter a day, but to help them understand, we might say, that’s three blocks of butter for every person in Ireland per day, then they will understand, “ said Eoin.
The Sharkey are clear about the objective of the role of the mobile farm, stating that they are not a petting farm, but an educational farm.
Maperath Farm opens a farm shop during the Christmas where they commercially sell geese and Turkeys for the season. They produce over 1,000 birds and mainly sell directly to consumers, with the exception of one or two select retailers.
Eoin hosts ‘Turkey Chats” on Facebook that will discuss the turkeys with interested customers, introducing them to the farm, where people can see the way in which the birds are being raised.
The birds will then be processed and sent directly to the customer. Pigs are also on the menu to purchase and process, however, you’ll have to get to the back of the queue!
Image Source: Maperath Farm \ Facebook
Image Source: Maperath Farm \ Facebook
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