This article, written by Kate Carmody following the famous Dragon’s Den appearance, is featured on Gavin Duffy’s Blog
We thought it best to add to our very own Blog….
When I was getting married in 1984, my mother June Feeny proudly presented me with a cheese press and a cheese-making book and declared that every dairy farmer should make their own cheese. I took this literally and Beal Cheese was born. Beal is the place where I live at the mouth of the Shannon Estuary. I married a dairy farmer and rearing our four daughters, I developed a cheddar style cheese which I christened Beal.
The original Beal cheese is a raw milk cheese made lovingly by hand and matured for approximately nine months. A farmhouse cheese is the ideal value added product for a dairy farmer. As the years passed by I refined and modified the recipe to produce the world winning cheese that I produce today.
In the late 1990’s I decided to go organic as GM crops were being introduced into our food chain by stealth, by the global food corporations which wish to control our whole food chain. By going organic I could ensure the provenance of my cheese and help to uphold the reputation that we have in this country as Ireland the food Ireland. We should remember that food production is the one thing that we are good at in this country. We cannot compete on the commodity markets and the value added market is the best route for us. Going organic really transformed the quality and the flavour of the cheese and I found the demand for the cheese growing.
BANKS TOLD ME TO GET A MAN
I then found myself in a dilemma as to how to expand production. I had two daughters in college and I was also putting myself through college doing a Masters in Biomedical Science; and so money wasn’t flush. My husband Patrick was also dying from aggressive prostate cancer at the time.
I knew it was a make or break time and so invested what I could spare into trial batches of a new cheese, a handmade, pasteurised cheddar which I made six weeks before my husband died. I have often thought that since Patrick died he has been pulling all the strings to make the cheese a success. The new pasteurised cheese won a silver medal at its first competition at 3 months of age. I then kept it for a further six months before selling it. That following year it won the best new cheese in Ireland award with a silver medal. I knew that I was onto a good thing.
It was then that the banks started slamming the doors into my face. The same banks that would not pass the “Are you smarter than a ten year old” test! It seems that there is no value in a “woman on her own” or; ” I should get myself a partner!” they said. The fact that my cheeses will be in short supply is entirely due to the narrow-mindedness of the banks!
Go on DRAGONS’ DEN
I was working in Kerry General Hospital part time and my friend Colette Maguire suggested that I go on Dragons’ Den to get the money that I needed. I had just related my latest bank refusal. I laughed off the suggestion at the time but when attending the Ploughing Championships, Bank of Ireland gave me an application form which I filled in, thinking that at the very least my cheese would get national exposure. Judging by the last few days it certainly has. My time spent in the Dragons’ den will certainly make a good chapter for my book. I was slightly stunned be the reception that I received from all the dragons. I have to confess that I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
The Politics of Food
I knew that my business idea was sound as people will always have to eat and that my products were good. In this age of recession people are looking for value for money and many are going back to cooking their own food. What better food to cook than local, seasonal and organic food. So you know what you are eating. So much of our so called cheap food is full of wheat and soya fillers, it has created the first generation of children that will die before their parents. We have an epidemic of heart disease and diabetes.
By buying less food which is better quality and by making sure it is local, seasonal and organic we can support our ailing agricultural industry. By demanding that all of our food chain is GM free we can further liberate all the family farms of the developing world, which are being pressurised into growing GM crops. We should remember that the global financial collapse could be mirrored by a global food chain collapse if we allow a few Corporations to control the whole show.
The cheeses that I produce cover the whole taste range.
Beal handmade mature cheddar, which is pasteurised, and the raw milk handmade Beal Cheese.
Rural Ireland needs products like these. I hope to persuade other dairy farmers to go organic so that they can be paid a decent price for their milk, Here, in the southwest we are renowned for our grassland pastures, the ideal feed for producing top quality milk for top quality cheese. If you want to learn more about adding value to your Dairy produce or just want to find out more about my cheese please visit me on www.beal.ie