25 Jun 2022

GALLERY: Kilkenny snail farm business moving fast

Darren Hassett talks to the founders of “Two Fellas Farm” as the pair look to export up to six tonnes of escargots this year

A farming duo in Graignamanagh have bought their first 30,000 breeding snails and are now producing Kilkenny’s very own escargot. 

Joe Dempsey, 35, is from Gorey and Martin McCormick, 45, from Dundalk, spent six years in Melbourne in Australia before returning to Ireland last year. 

They decided to move to Graignamanagh and speaking to the Kilkenny People, Joe says they were keen to work on the land around their countryside house and they’ve achieved that ambition.

They were looking to maximise the use of the land and build on their combined experience in design and operations.

Joe said: “We were keen to work from home and make maximum use of the land, this led to me completing some short courses on organic market gardening through NOTS “National Organic Training Skillsnet”.

“We were keen to keep our options open on small scale farming so I also attended NOTS’s Snail Farming conference in November 2016.

"Snail farming appeared more attractive as a business opportunity, it suited the size of our farm, giving us this change of direction.”

From this, Two Fellas Farm was born - a small holding on the banks of the River Barrow in Kilkenny. The farm is home to Irish escargot and produces “premium free range edible snails”. Two Fellas Farm have bought their first stock of 30,000 breeding snails, half from Greece and half from Enniscorthy.

After 2-3 months in a controlled environment their 30,000 breeders (hermaphrodites) started producing clusters of eggs, with an average of 100 to 150 eggs per cluster.

Joe said: “In total our snails produced 1.3 million eggs during our first breeding season, after 14 days of incubation these eggs hatched into tiny snails which spent the first few weeks in the polytunnel, this is to give them a safe place to start growing while their field crop is establishing.

“They spend the next 6 months out in the field in their natural environment feasting every day on a high protein and calcium diet.

"September is our month of harvest, all our harvest will be brought back under cover to be purged, hibernated and graded to await exportation.

“We are expecting to export 5-6 tonne of escargot this year.” Joe says business is “good for our first year” .

He added: “They are hardy little fellows that like to keep us on our toes. Plenty to learn everyday and we have made or planned a few alterations that should see next year’s season run a lot smoother.”

They also took part in this year’s Iverk Show in Piltown. It looks like it’s onwards and upwards for these two ambitious farmers.

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Stan Lalor, Director of Knowledge Transfer Teagasc; Marianne Mulhall, Teagasc Advisor; Clifford and Eileen Balding host farmers and Frank O’Mara, Teagasc Director

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