Marketing Matters: Keeping it authentic in Ireland
By Cathy Bartolic
By Cathy Bartolic
For decades, Ontario Farm Fresh has been offering bus tours. They are a great way for participants to recuperate after a busy season of hosting guests on the farm. As I reflect on my time, one tour immediately jumps out: our tour to Ireland in 2018. There were several highlights throughout the tour, but the Causey Farm will always be one of the most special stops that year.
At first I wasn’t expecting anything amazing from this farm. Their website is frankly rudimentary and not exactly clear about the activities that are offered. During the scouting tour we had a brief discussion with a staff member but did not get a full overview of the farm. The farm was still included on the final tour agenda regardless because it had enough positives to keep its place.
Upon arrival, we realized we underestimated the farm. We quickly learned that Causey Farm is a venue for a variety of entertainment, tourism and educational programs. The Murtagh family owns the 300-acre farm in County Meath and have opened their gates to give visitors the opportunity to experience authentic Irish culture in a rural farm setting.
We learned many lessons about hosting visitors and agritourism that day. Our group was greeted by Duncan. He was a jovial, gentle giant towering over everyone with his 6’8” stature. The first activity was to make and bake the traditional Irish soda brown bread. I was skeptical as to how 54 people were going to accomplish this task in a timely and orderly manner, but my doubts were soon put to rest. Long tables had been set up and we were asked to pair off with our partners on the other side of the table. Duncan guided us through the simple bread recipe and then started distributing ingredients. To keep things lively and entertaining, he tossed the necessary egg to each couple. Thankfully, we did not have to clean up any off the floor.
Once the bread was made it went into a loaf pan with a toothpick and paper triangle that we wrote our names on. This activity leads to the first lesson of the trip.
LESSON #1 – If you have a group coming to the farm, plan interesting activities and then find a way to simplify them but still keep them fun.
Next, we were taken to a beautiful old stone barn where we were going to learn how to do the Irish jig. Much to my surprise everyone on the bus was up for this activity and Duncan soon had the barn floor bouncing as we all showed off our newly acquired skill.
LESSON #2 – Guides and workshop leaders need to be enthusiastic and engaging, especially if these activities are a significant part of your business.
We were given a quick tour of the rest of the farm where some of their other activities, like hen parties (bridal showers), sheepdog demonstration, Bodhran lessons and traditional turf cuttings, take place.
LESSON #3 – You don’t need a lot of buildings as long as each building can have multiple uses and you have activities that give you enough time to re-set the building for another activity.
We were then herded back to the first building for a lunch of traditional Irish stew and the bread we had made earlier that was baked and warm. To taste the fruits (or rather bread) of your labour, made for a memorable experience.
LESSON #4 – Stay true to you. We could have had sausages or burgers and it may have even been easier to prepare but how Irish is that?
The majority of the eight siblings are now involved in this growing business. Matt Murtagh believes the key to their success is that it remains a working farm. The fact that people are likely to get cow dung on their shoes is one of its charms, Matt maintains.