Honestly Farm Kitchens are owned and run by Liam and Justina Gavin of Drumanilra Organic Farm. We moved our young family back from the UK in 2012, to take over Liam’s 200-year-old family farm. We came with two ambitions. We wanted to feed our family with wholesome food grown by our own hands. We also wanted to generate a sustainable and independent income for the farm by supplying produce directly to customers.
- Droim an Iolair – Treading in their Footsteps
- Farming Drumanilra – Testing the Waters
- Mission Drumanilra – Planning the Future
Drumanilra Farm is situated just outside Boyle, with fields rolling down to the Lough Key lakeshore. The name Drumanilra – Droim an Iolair means “Brow of the Eagle” and is the old townland name used on older maps.
The Tonra and O’Farrell families were originally tenant farmers to the Rockingham Estate on Lough Key. They raised dairy cattle, grew a few potatoes and oats, kept a small vegetable plot and a pig for the family. The old milking parlour is still there, beneath the granary loft of the ancient barn. For both of us, that fast disappearing way of life held the promise of a connectedness to land, community and wholesome food, we wanted to experience for ourselves.
Small mixed farms, rooted in strong farming communities, that feed the families that work on them and produce surplus for sale, are becoming relics of the past. Industrial food systems have left little room for the small, local producer. Could we find a road back to something like the way of life of Liam’s ancestors, and achieve a sustainable income for the farm?
So in 2012, we came with our three young children and set to work. We cleared the land, which had been more or less untouched for 30 years, and re-fenced. We bought breeding stock and entered the farm into organic conversion.
In the summer of 2014, the Drumanilra Dexter Burger was born. In the early 1980s, Liam spent several summers touring Ireland with a group of friends. They served BBQ burgers to hungry audiences at music festivals from an old transit van. In 2014, our small, pedigree Dexter herd had grown enough to give us some product. So, as a first step to selling direct to customers, we bought a “Shepherd’s Hut” style catering trailer. Throughout that summer, it was Justina’s turn to tour shows and festivals around Ireland, selling Drumanilra Farm Dexter Burgers. We were delighted to win a McKenna Food Guide Award at Electric Picnic for our efforts.
In that same year, we bought an old house in an over-grown garden plot in the centre of Boyle, next to Supervalu. We landscaped the gardens and a year later, in 2015, just a few months after achieving our full organic status from the Organic Trust, the Shepherd’s Hut became the Drumanilra Farm Kitchen. Initially, we served burgers and hotdogs for take-away and to eat at picnic benches in the garden. Over the next fifteen months, we renovated the old house on the plot, adding an in-door dining room, a small farm shop and eventually moving the kitchen inside too. We also developed our menu, adding breakfasts, soups, sandwiches and salads made with our own ingredients, French fries made with organic potatoes, and fantastic, locally roasted coffee.
Back at the farm, we experimented with outdoor pedigree pigs and poultry, built up a flock of rare breed Jacob and Shetland sheep and continued to grow our Dexter herd. We built polytunnels to grow our own salads and vegetables. We built relationships with other organic farms that could help with supply when our own product ran low. All the produce from the farm was sold direct to our customers, via the café and farm shop.
The Drumanilra Farm Kitchen was a huge success. Our loyal and enthusiastic customer base grew steadily and we quickly became listed as Trip Advisor’s number one place to eat in County Roscommon. Our local producer network grew too and now includes organic beef farmers, chicken producers, and vegetable growers, raw milk producers, tea blenders, coffee roasters, artisan cheesemakers and real bread bakers.
We were delighted to receive several notable awards in 2017 and 2018, including Restaurant Association of Ireland Awards for Customer Service, Best “Free-From” Menu, Best Emerging Irish Cuisine and Local Food Heroes for the Connacht region. In 2019, we were staggered to win our first national award – Georgina Campbell’s Natural Food Award.
We were overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and support from local people and travellers from all over Ireland and beyond, for the local, organic food we now produced sold. Fortified by the success of our Boyle based café and farm shop, we were ready to take the next steps on our journey.
We’ve come a long way since our Drumanilra journey began in 2012, but our goal has always been the same: to reconnect people with wholesome, organic, sustainable food, rooted in place and provenance and grown by us and other like-minded producers. It’s been an incredible 10 years, working in an amazing community, in an inspirational corner of the world, here in the North West of Ireland. It’s been trial, error and a huge learning curve. We are now looking to the future.
We have secured three hugely exciting premises in three high profile locations, in which to build our brand, expand our customer reach and bring our fantastic tasting, nutritious and sustainably produced food to a wider audience. Our plans were delayed by the COVID pandemic. However, Honestly Farm Kitchen in Carrick-on-Shannon, opened in December 2021. Honestly, Strandhill will open Summer 2022, and Honestly, Boyle, our flagship, boutique hotel with organic restaurant, farm shop, microbrewery and teaching kitchen, will follow.
We have also expanded our farm to meet demand. We have added additional land to the original farm. Drumanilra Organic Farm has grown from 40 acres on the shores of Lough Key, to 300 acres. As we move forward, the farm will scale up its various enterprises to meet increased demand from the new Farm Kitchens. We will continue to produce organic, pedigree Dexter cattle, outdoor organic pigs, rare-breed sheep, organic laying hens, and develop our flourishing organic market garden. We will also continue our ongoing work to build a network of like-minded producers and organic farmers interested in supplying the Kitchens. Finally, we will invest in infrastructure at the home farm to accommodate farm visits, walks, workshops and an annual food festival on the stunningly beautiful, Lough Key lakeshore, jewel in the crown of the Shannon Blueway.
The next few years at Drumanilra promise to be hugely exciting. We are looking forward to bringing together an exceptional team of passionate and skilled people to work with us to realise the Drumanilra vision. Above all, we are looking forward to continuing our own journey to raise our children to know and respect good food and where it comes from, to respect the animals and the environment that feed us, to take seriously our responsibility as keepers of that environment, and above all to know when something tastes good!
If you are interested in getting involved in our project, either as a member of the team or by supplying our project with your own produce, then please do get in touch.