“Oats Produced from Ballard Organic Farm, owned and operated by the Lalor family since 1844” is the proud proclamation on the Kilbeggan Organic Foods website and it says a lot about the principles of stewardship that Pat Lalor and his forebears have always valued so highly.
The enterprising Pat Lalor is the fifth generation to run Ballard Farm, and it was he who took the decision to convert the farm to organic production.
Oats have always been an important crop on this Co Westmeath farm, initially for animal feed and then for supply to Ireland’s biggest porridge oats company Flahavans of Kilmacthomas, Co Waterford, whose organic sales have increased dramatically in recent years.
Then in 2011, Pat took the leap and - while still also supplying Flahavans - he started producing porridge from his own oats and Kilbeggan Organic Porridge was born.
The timing was good and this quality product - which is available as jumbo (whole) oats and oatlets (finer) - has been a huge success, winning awards including the Best Organic Grocery category at Bord Bia’s National Organic Awards in 2012 - and then, in May 2013, Pat Lalor was presented with a Euro-Toques Food Award in recognition of his achievements and the superior quality and taste of his product. The health benefits of oats are now well understood and, while the slow release energy of porridge is especially welcome in the colder months, it’s an all year product.
All of the farm's oat production (100 tonnes per annum) is now sold under the Kilbeggan Organic Foods brand - and demand far outstrips supply. It’s distributed to speciality stores all over Ireland and much in demand for its special texture and flavour as well as the ‘free from’ advantages. While most of their production is sold in Ireland, Kilbeggan oats are also on sale in the high end New York store Dean & Deluca, and Selfridges in London.
Ballard Organic Beef is further significant new enterprise, currently being established.
Agri-tourism is another important element of life on Ballard Farm, which is also an open farm (March- October) with facilities for visiting groups of up to 45 people, with or without an agricultural background. Toilets, catering etc available