Rosemary Cleary O’Shea from Tullahay Farm
Tullahay Farm is an artisan producer of plain and savoury soft cheeses and award winning unique fruit flavoured whey drinks which are all made on the family farm in Tullohea just outside Carrick on Suir using milk from their own herd of Friesian cows. The Tipperary Star caught up with company founder Rosemary Cleary O’Shea to learn about the business and launching a new company during a pandemic.
When did the business start?
Tullahay Farm as an artisan producer was launched on October 3, 2020 so we are a very new business. However, the farm itself had been in the O Shea family for 6 generations.
How many people work in the company?
At the moment it is just myself. I am responsible for all aspects of the business from production to marketing to finance and everything in between!
What inspired you to start the business?
I grew up on a farm 5 minutes away which has been in my father’s family for 11 generations. Whey featured regularly in our diet as my mother used it as a daily tonic.
This was at a time before health supplements and vitamins were commonplace. When I starting working full time on my husband’s farm, I began thinking about how to add value to the business and was brought back to my childhood and the benefits of the whey tonic. However, I didn’t want there to be any waste so came up with a product range that comprised cheese which used the curds and a flavoured drink which used the whey. (Think of the nursery rhyme “Little Miss Muffet!)
What has been the biggest challenge since the business began?
Normally a new product can be introduced to the public at food festivals, markets and store visits where tastings can take place and there is an opportunity to educate the consumer about the product attributes. Obviously Covid-19 has prevented an awareness campaign of this nature taking place.
This has proved to be a huge obstacle especially with the fruit flavoured whey drinks as they are unique and the only one of their kind available in Ireland.
I would love to be engaging with the public to let them taste the fruit flavoured whey drinks and tell them about the health benefits that can be enjoyed as a result of introducing them into their diet on a regular basis.
What has been your proudest moment in the business?
This year I entered the mango flavoured whey drink into the Blas nahEireann / Irish Food Awards, the largest blind tasting food and drink awards in Ireland. The winners were announced on October 3, the day I launched the Tullahay Farm range and to my delight, the mango flavoured whey drink won a Bronze.
Before launching, I did a sample drop of my flavoured savoury soft cheeses to local hotels, restaurants and cafes and the positive feedback from their chefs about how they loved the flavour and texture of the cheese was very encouraging. The mango flavoured whey drink success at Blas na hEireann and feedback about the flavoured savoury soft cheeses from local chefs gave me great confidence that I have developed an award winning range of quality products.
When I go into a store eg Supervalu in Carrick on Suir, and I see Tullahay Farm products in their fridges, it makes me very proud of what I have achieved in a very short space of time.
What inspires you from a business perspective?
I am inspired to contribute to the long term viability of Tullahay Farm by identifying products that can add value to the existing operation. It is my hope that by doing this it will make the farm an attractive proposition for one or more of my three daughters in their future careers. I am committed to encouraging them to gain a third level qualification that will enable them to get jobs that they enjoy and it would be great if their area of expertise brought new ideas to and opportunities for Tullahay Farm.
How has the business adapted in light of the Covid-19 pandemic?
As we are a newly launched business that was not open pre Covid-19 we have not had to address any major changes.
What is your advice to others starting out in the industry?
Listen to feedback. Look at an obstacle as a roundabout knowing that there is a way around it. Focus on your passion when things get tough and remember that is why you are doing it.
Where can people find out more?
In Co Tipperary Tullahay Farm products are available from Supervalu Carrick on Suir, Supervalu Clonmel (from January 2021), The Gourmet Butcher, Clonmel, D-Bunked Café, Clonmel, The Auld Mill, Grangemockler. In Co Kilkenny: Supervalu Callan, Supervalu Loughboy (from January 2021). In Co Waterford: Ardkeen Stores.
Our website is www.tullahayfarm.ie. We are also active on social media and invite people to follow us there www.facebook.com/ tullahayfarm