Hailing originally from Co. Dublin, Peter Whelan may initially appear to be an unlikely pig farmer.
Close to a decade later, his success is a testament to the fact that it was meant to be.
Alongside his wife Susan, the artisan producers are now sausages, rashers, puddings and chorizo specialists.
The award-winning farm produce has garnered the attention of Blas na hEireann, fetching a Gold award two years ago for the farm’s chorizo.
Today, the duo can boast about having their produce on the menus of leading hotels and restaurants in the North-East region of Ireland.
With an inspiring philosophy that circles around controlling one’s own destiny, it is no wonder that The Whole Hoggs is an enterprise that continues to sky-rocket to success.
The Whole Hoggs Farm is home to a total of 130 sows and boars.
Rare breeds including Tamworth, Saddleback and Gloucestershire Old Spots Crosses have been carefully selected by the pig farming expert in order to deliver quality produce.
Mr. Whelan takes great pride in the management regime behind his pig production enterprise.
The pigs are slaughtered in approved abattoir registered in Trim, Co. Meath and every other fine detail from rearing to butchering is completed on-farm.
The pigs are allowed to roam around the seven-year-old forestry plantation and enjoy a grass-based diet.
An unlikely venture
What many don’t realise is an experience steeped in Mr. Whelan’s childhood is the reason why you can now find his grass-fed pork on the menus of leading hotels throughout Ireland.
Many are baffled when they are asked to recall memories of their early childhood days from five decades ago.
Peter's is one that differs from many and several may question how a Dublin man ended up dominating a pair of wellies.
There is one true story that stands out in memory.
With Peter’s father being an avid country-fan, childhood holidays were spent in farmhouses around Ireland from the tender age of four and who knew that this would be responsible for his rather unique plunge into the Agricultural field.
‘‘While we were on holidays in Galway, we were waiting for one of the sows to farrow. I was terribly disappointed at the end of the week when we still hadn’t welcomed a new arrival. My father looked in the mirror of the car and the farmer was calling us back. It was a miracle in the sense that she had finally started to sow.’’ Peter told Catherina of That’s Farming.
Always up for a challenge, young Peter was allocated the usual bottle-feeding duties for one of the Bonhams.
‘‘I asked the farmer in my four-year-old Dublin accent ‘you know the way that hens lay eggs, do pigs lay sausages?’. The experience obviously stuck with me and the rest is now history.’’ Peter added.
When the time came, Peter established an Engineering business, focusing on Sales and Marketing with his father and Peter tied the knot with the love of his life Susan in 1994. Peter got bitten by the farming-bug and he purchased a holding and to start suckler farming on a small scale on a part-time basis.
‘‘I wanted to make a living from the land and every farmer was telling me that I was mad. I wanted to do something within the food industry.’’ Peter explained.
In 2005, an attractive offering of 59-acres in Slane, Co. Meath caught the entrepreneur’s eye and he couldn’t but purchase it.
A small drove of free-range pigs then took residence on the sizeable home, but all focus was placed on operating a Dog Pound for many years.
‘‘We lost the Dog Pound and I didn’t see it coming. It was our bread and butter. My mental health took a little dip and I suffered from depression.’’ Peter said.
Carving out paths
Difficult financial circumstances put the pig farm into the shadows and forced Peter to return back to the drawing board.
Brid Carter of Honest2Goodness came to the assistance of Mr and Mrs. Whelan and reassured the duo that the Wednesday produce market would be an ideal niche for the farm produce. From humble beginnings to a travelling on a difficult road, The Whole Hoggs has not turned back since.
‘‘I want to stay artisan. A lot of people start off like me and then, unfortunately, lose sight. They get swallowed up in the big commercial world. I am trying to find a middle ground.’’ Peter explained.
The Whole Hoggs continues to flourish years following its establishment.
The development of an online shop is one that is currently under wraps but future plans do not stop there. Now living in Meath, Peter has his eyes securely fixed on tapping into new markets. Currently, produce can be bought from the Sunday Market in Honest2goodness.ie
The production facilities are currently being updated which will allow the Whelan couple to increase their current product range offerings, in order to continue to supply their large list of restaurants, hotels and wholesalers in Dublin.
Following numerous successful trials, Peter has taken the Italian and Spanish Air-dried Iberico ham to Irish soil utilising his own pork.
‘‘It is a long drawn out process and can take up thirteen-months before the product would be ready. I am looking to get licenced for that. This is now my big area of focus.’’ Peter explained.
We have no doubt that the future is going to continue to shine brightly for Peter, Susan and all at The Whole Hoggs.
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