20 years ago, farmer and broadcaster Darragh McCullough started selling €2 bunches of daffodils in buckets outside his front gate in Gormanston, Co. Meath on Saturday and Sunday mornings, which planted the seed for his flower enterprise.
This year he opened a new landmark shop on the farm operating seven days a week, employing a team of professional florists, and selling bouquets for up to €200 a pop.
The flower business is part of a larger family owned farm that incorporates livestock, tillage and Christmas trees.
“Bord Bia figures show that over 96% of all flowers sold in Ireland are imported. Elmgrove Flower Farm is the opposite, with less than 4% of all the stems sold by the imported business,” Darragh said.
Over 100 acres of flowers and foliage are grown at Elmgrove Flower Farm, and are supplied nationwide and across Europe.
“This week we are replanting over five million of our daffodil bulbs for picking next spring,” Darragh said.
“We are also cropping hypericum berries, gladiola and other foliage. In one month we will be planting up tunnels with dahlia and peony roses..
“Bolt ons for our new shop include a coffee cart that will be using milk from our dairy farm, free-range eggs that will be incorporated into our bakes and cakes, and a garden center. A pizza trailer is planned for the coming months,” he said.
Irish flower farms
“There are less than 10 cut flower growers who are selling into wholesale markets and relying on it for a living. Less than 100 vegetable farmers are doing the same,” the farmer said.
“Despite government policy to promote the development of horticulture, the sector has haemorrhaged commercial growers,” he contended.
“Bord Bia estimates that €271 million is spent on cut flowers in Ireland annually.
“However, 2021 figures from the Department of Agriculture (Food and the Marine) estimate that a paltry €10 million of this is produced in Ireland, indicating that a whopping 96% of all flowers sold in Ireland are imported.”
Carol Marks, Bord Bia horticulture manager, said that there are a number of well established, large-scale commercial cut flower and daffodil growers in Ireland, supplying into supermarkets and exporting.
“In recent years, we’ve also seen a growing number of small/micro businesses focusing on growing and selling cut flowers around the country. These smaller producers typically grow more traditional flower varieties to offer an alternative to the consumer at a local level,” she said.