Located on the Fermanagh-Monaghan border in the town-land of Cavanagh at Newtownbutler, John & Eileen Hall have been quietly going about developing their free range egg business. With a farming background the couple have transformed what was a 29 hectare (70 acre) beef and sheep enterprise in 2002, into a thriving rural business which produces over 800,000 dozen free range eggs annually. The farm currently has four hen barns which are entirely free range. Hens have freedom to roam in the large fenced paddocks, which are dotted with mature oak, ash and chestnut trees. Additional woodland has also recently been planted which will act as shade as it matures. The tranquil fields around the barns are ideally suited for hens as they can forage during the day and return to the safety of their individual barn perches at night.
The green and yellow “Cavanagh Free Range Egg” packs are a common sight in local shops however their availability has spread far beyond the green fields of Fermanagh, into independent retailers, markets and restaurants throughout the UK and Ireland. The Hall’s pride in the quality of their free range eggs is clear for all to see who visit the farm. Although the enterprise may be relatively small-scale in comparison to the size of many industrialised egg producers, the emphasis on high welfare standards and a quality product is really starting to produce dividends and make Cavanagh Free Range Eggs stand out from the crowd. John noted that “people like to know where their food is coming from and this gave us the confidence to focus on creating an artisan free range egg brand” In August 2014 Cavanagh Free Range Eggs were awarded a “Great Taste Gold Star Award”. Great Taste is organised by the Guild of Fine Food and is the acknowledged benchmark for specialty food and drink.
As the egg market developed over the last number of years Eileen and John’s confidence in the Cavanagh brand was clear to see as they constructed a purpose built packaging centre. The business was accredited by SALSA (Safe and Local Supplier Approval) in April this year. This involved rigorous audit checks to achieve this high standard. The new packaging centre has greatly improved the efficiency of their operation, freeing up more time to focus on other aspects of the enterprise. Recent expansion has also allowed the business to employ three full-time staff in addition to family members who are involved in the business. The couple’s two young sons Brian and Aaron also have a keen interest in the hens and help out on holidays and at weekends.
In 2012 Eileen and John participated in CAFRE’s Diversification Challenge, Business Development Course. Commenting on the course “it gave us the confidence to move the business forward and meeting other farm families experiencing similar issues in developing new businesses was invaluable. We also moved to a computerised book-keeping system which has significantly reduced the time spent, on what was previously a manual task. Something that often kept us up into the small hours of the morning”. The business has also recently launched its new website www.cavanaghfreerangeeggs.co.uk to promote the brand. So, John and Eileen look forward to the continued development of their business and really appreciate the help and support that they have received from CAFRE’s Rural Enterprise Team.
If you are interested in finding out more about farm diversification options and support available through CAFRE, please contact Eamon O’Harte CAFRE, Rural Enterprise Adviser. Tel 028 66343100 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org