KEEPING IT SIMPLE Shrule man John Tedders, owner of the Filling Station Eco Store in his premises on Market Street, Galway. Pic: Brian Harding
Name: John Tedders
Occupation: Organic turkey farmer
I run Down to Earth Organics, a family operated organic farm in Shrule and I produce turkeys for the Christmas market. I also have hens which supply eggs to Ashford Castle, a few restaurants in Galway and Green Earth Organics.
A friend of mine in Offaly had turkeys and he mentioned to me on an off chance so I decided to look into it. I started off with 50 and then went from 80 to 100 and now onto 150. I get my turkeys from Monaghan and they come as days olds in July. You put them under the heated lamps for five weeks. Up to that stage it is high risk but after five weeks they are pretty hardy and gradually start going out. After a while they are out 95 percent of the time in the fields unless it is belting down.
My day starts at around 7.30am. I always start with the breakfast first. I can’t operate on an empty stomach. I usually have a porridge and muesli mix along with some banana and yogurt. Then I have three or four slices of brown bread which I make myself and a cup of tea and out the gap then. That will keep me going until one or two. Thank God my Mum is still alive. She’s 93 and cooks the dinner every day and I look forward to her dinner then.
The work starts around 8am and I let out the hens and pick out the eggs and start grading some and box them. I then go down to the turkeys to let them out. The minute you open the door in the morning, you hear a racket they make and they take off to get out of the shed.
I have a dog, Dice, a collie who waits with them, that’s his job come August. He stays with them to keep foxes away because otherwise you end up losing them. I haven’t lost any to foxes this year but other years I have until Dice came on the scene. Dice keeps them at bay and he minds them and the hens. He is a brilliant sheep dog, he is so intelligent he would nearly talk to you. I would be lost without him.
I converted my farm into organic a number of years ago now. I was like an ordinary farmer, pumping feed and manure into the land, pushing it all the time. At the end of the day, your manure and feed bills were always sky high and I said there has to be another way. I cut back on numbers and decided to go completely organic.
There was a two year conversion and then I sowed five acres of veg for a number of years, supplying SuperValu in Tuam. I ran that for a number of years and a guy I was supplying the veg to, Green Earth Organics, mentioned to me about the hens. He said he would take what I had and I started off with a couple of hundred and then grew to 1,500. It grew organically but again there is a lot of work involved.
I also have a small shop in Galway which I might go into two to three times a week. We opened it there last year and it is called The Filling Station, an organic refill shop. It is 95 percent organic produce, dry foods and washing up liquids and detergents. You bring in your own containers and fill up what you want.
As a kid we had a small shop in Shrule and I was brought up weighing stuff because the flour, tea, sugar, even the biscuits came loose. As a kid that was one of my jobs and I was only six or seven.
I took over the shop but 12 years ago we closed because it became harder and harder to compete with the multiples.
When I closed, I did miss it because I was brought up with it as a kid and was always in the shop with mum and dad. That is the main reason I opened the shop in Galway. What I am doing in Galway is exactly what I was doing 40 odd years ago. I buy everything in bulk, the porridge and tea and so on and I put it into people’s containers.
Galway was crying out for it. They love the idea of it plus the amount of money people are able to save … People are fed up with the amount of plastic in their bins every week and there is no need for a lot of it. There is no reason why that bottle you bring in to be refilled wouldn’t last you for the rest of your life.
With the days so short, come 3pm you have to be thinking of starting over again and start bringing in the turkeys again.
They are a lovely animal and you do get attached to them. This is not the nicest time of the year, especially the day you have to get them culled. They are with you for the last six months. You get to know their personality a bit, especially in the morning when you go in and they make that gobble noise.
I get them culled professionally in Hogan’s in Navan around the middle of December. I go up a week later to pick them up and put them in my own fridge. They are labeled and packaged and shipped via courier. There is always a worry until Christmas Day arrives that everyone gets their turkey.
This time last year I was panicking because a guy let me down and I had 100 turkeys to get rid of and, looking back, it was a worry. I had to go on The Joe Duffy Show and my God I could have sold a thousand turkeys after being on the show.
I am sold out this year which is a good thing. The feedback from people who would have bought a turkey is great and it has helped build up the business because it is repeat business. Rearing turkeys is a gamble. Trust me you are not making a fortune on them but it is part of what I do being an organic farmer.
In conversation with Anton McNulty
If money was no object what would you do?
I would probably be still doing the same thing. I am happy with what I’m at
Favourite place in the world?
What makes you nervous?
The fear of not knowing
Three things always in your fridge?
Milk, cheese and yogurt
Favourite TV show?
I’m a bit of a Corrie fan
What makes you angry?
It is hard to make me angry
How do you unwind?
A glass of Guinness
Most famous person you met?
Miley from Glenroe, it was a funny story. I had a jeep and Jim Joyce from Headford asked me to pick up Miley in Tourmakeady. The road was covered in ice and snow and he couldn’t get out so I picked him up. It was a fun day with him.
Most prized possession?
My little dog Dice
Best advice you got?
Health is your wealth