Mag Kirwan of Goatsbridge trout farm in Kilkenny tells us about her life in the heart of The Nore Valley.
The Story of Goatsbridge began over 800 years ago. In 1180, the Monks of Jerpoint Abbey near Thomastown, Co Kilkenny fished in the fast flowing waters of The Little Arrigle River. This fishing lifestyle was maintained throughout the centuries.
Then in 1961 the creation of fish ponds running were created. Now these ponds are the heart of our trout farm. We took over in 1990 as the second generation of Kirwan family. We have continued to develop the farm – in 2010 a state-of-the-art processing and packaging facility was added to the farm to fully modernise it.
Today, my husband Ger Kirwan and myself run the Goatsbridge operation. We live on the farm with our family and carry on the tradition of purity and sustainability. Each daily catch comes directly from the crystal clear Irish waters of The Little Arrigle.
The farm was established in 1962 by my husband’s parents and I married into it 25 years ago.
I met my husband in University College Dublin while studying. He studied Ag Engineering and I studied Biochemistry. After college he returned home to work the family fish farm with his parents and I worked as a biochemist and eventually gave into my heart and returned to Ireland to become a fishwife!
My day varies depending on what is happening. I am managing director so I oversee all aspects of the business from marketing, business development to production analysis etc. I could be up in the factory checking a smoke trial or in Dublin at a conference giving a talk. My day is always exciting and I have the best job in the world.
We sell approximately 50% of our fish to food service and the rest into retail. 15 % of our sales are added-value products like smoked fish and the balance is fresh fish sales. We sell into the domestic market primarily but are beginning to crack the export business. We see more scope for fresh fish sales in Ireland as well as sales in Europe as well as Asia for added-value products.
It’s a weird leap to go from biochemistry to fish farming! However I was born to do this so there is nothing weird about it. Although curing trout caviar is weird. Who would have thought I would be doing that? We have an agriculture farm also so lambing lambs was an experience I did not expect!
We have four kids and my husband is very hands on with them and is an amazing father. We are very much a team so we both cook depending on what is happening and who is around. Ger does a lot of the dropping and picking up of kids and because they are very active in sport he is very involved on that front too. I work from home and tend to go out into the office in the evening when it is quiet and it is my most productive time. Our offices are away from the house and I never take work into the house and always feel in mother mode when I am there as a result. I do spend a lot of time in my office!
I like everything about my life. It’s interesting, dynamic, full of variety, progressive, exciting and rewarding. I love the freedom and sense of satisfaction as our business grows and flourishes. I love building a team of great people and seeing them take pride in what we are achieving.
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