Donal and Teresa Leahy have been running Leahy’s Open Farm since Donal inherited it from his parents, Eddie, and Eileen, in 2014.
The staff has grown to twelve employees, each with an important role to play on the enterprise, which welcomed an impressive 70,000 visitors last year.
The farm started initially as a traditional dairy and pig enterprise but since it is landlocked by a commercial forestry business, traditional farming was never going to be sustainable.
With costs increasing over the year, the plan was to push the open farm as much as possible.
“The farm is our sole income; we have invested everything we have to try and make the open farm a success.” Teresa Leahy told That’s Farming.
Sold dairy herd
In 2008, they decided for the dairy herd to be sold as they could not expand over 45 cows.
“It was a very scary time as there was always the safety of the milk cheque coming in the door with the cows. Now the cheque was gone so we had to make it work.”
Now, all their efforts are being placed on the open farm. “We absolutely love the farm and all it stands for – we enjoy seeing our visitors come and have fun and go home happy.”
“We get huge satisfaction from seeing all our staff come to work and enjoy their day. We are so proud of the employment we have created in the area and we hope to continue this for as long as we possibly can.”
Dairy has not left the farm entirely, with the fact that they still milk a cow at 4 pm each day with their visitors. Teresa and Donal believe it is important for people to see where their food comes from, rather than just appearing on the supermarket shelves.
They have approximately 60 animals, that vary from pigs to hens, alpaca, buffalo, goats, sheep, ducks, snakes, rabbits to name a few. The alpaca can be handfed from the public.
The bulk of their customers are young families and grandparents.
“We are constantly trying to create a day for families that they just won’t forget. We want every family who comes to the farm to have the best day ever.”
You are greeted quaint giftshop upon arrival, followed by a coffee shop with plenty of space with “delicious home baking and made to order treats” as Teresa describes.
For the younger ones, there are numerous outdoor play areas. There is a climbing frame, trim trail, a large hedge box maze, crazy golf, go-karts, quad, and barrel train rides. They even have real JCB diggers that kids and adults can operate.
“Visit all the playgrounds, make your way around the maze and ring the bell in the centre tower, go for a spin on the zip line, watch the piggy racing and dog agility demos, take a spin on the quad and barrel train, operate the JCB diggers, fly around the go-kart track and then we come to petting time.”
You can hold the snake, feed the goats, hold the guinea pig or even watch Maisy the cow being milked.”
The open farm, unfortunately, had to close for 3 months due to Covid-19.
It was poor timing as it is usually a profitable time for them during the Easter and school holiday season.
However, staycations have given a much-needed resurgence in customers. Donal and Teresa have played their part, equipping their farm with the necessary COVID-19 protocols.
“We introduced online booking only, we took details for contact tracing purposes, we put on extra staff inside and outside to clean down surfaces throughout the day.”
“We introduced one-way systems in parts of the farm that would be bottlenecks and we communicated a lot of training to our staff to ensure their safety.”
Teresa and Donal have big plans for the future but are currently busy making the present a success. That success will hopefully be spent on the future of the farm.
“The farms’ focus will be to keep introducing new and exciting features while keeping the character of the farm intact.”
“We want to look more into the educational aspect of the farm, and we want to create links with schools to facilitate outdoor learning and be more environmentally aware by creating more sustainable ways in doing business.”
“Eddie took over from his father and now Donal has taken over from his father. We hope that, in time, we will one day hand over to one of our children when the time is right.” they concluded.
The farm admission cost is €10.50 per person and kids under the age of 2 years are free. Customers can book online via their website.