An Irish woman who has today (Wednesday) won the international COPA-COGECA, European Farm Organisation umbrella body, Innovation Award for Women Farmers 2016 has been warmly congratulated by Mairead McGuinness, MEP and Vice-President of the European Parliament.
Margaret Farrelly who has built a 150 hectare farm on the Cavan-Meath border at Mullagh, with168,000 free-range hens and a turnover of €6.2 million was described by Ms McGuinness today as “a most inspiring woman who has built an incredible enterprise from very small beginnings back in 1983. This is a proud moment for Margaret, her family and her staff and it is a very proud moment for me to see Irish entrepreneurship recognised and honoured here in Brussels.”
In 1983 Margaret married her husband, Leo, and they moved to a 16-hectare dairy farm with 10 cows in Mullagh. Having worked in a bank, Margaret quickly realised that the income from the dairy farm would not make ends meet. She realised that farming families kept few hens and so, since then, Margaret has been investing in this sector.
In 1987 she began buying 150 free-range laying hens and supplying a local packer. Her product is now on Irish supermarket shelves in coloured packaging, which sets the O’Eggs apart – the ‘O’ stands for outdoor. 5 cents from each pack of O’Eggs goes to a cancer charity. Margaret also bet on Megga eggs, free-range eggs that are naturally enriched with omega 3, selenium and vitamin E via the hen’s diet.
In 2009 she identified another niche market, white eggs, and so invested in white hens. Three years later, in 2012, she solved the problem of unsalable very small and very large eggs by introducing pasteurised egg products and she now supplies bottled eggs to most of Ireland’s main supermarket chains.
The company employs 33 full and part-time staff and Margaret works with 22 farmers who complete a poultry educational programme, including one with the University of Scotland. She has also set up a research and development department for innovative products. This year she has already invested €8 million in production facilities.
Because sustainability is key for Margaret, she developed the Origin Green Programme within the Irish food board and encourages people to visit her farm to view her transparent procedures.