By Kristin Kenneally
SKIBBEREEN, Ireland – Originally owner of a 12-cow dairy operation, Madeline McKeever has now become Ireland’s biggest organic seed seller – well actually its only organic seed seller. McKeever has been selling heritage seeds, grown in Ireland to ensure the best growing results, to the public since 2004.
The road to success has been an interesting one to say the least. McKeever started organically growing seeds in 1999, when she registered with the Department of Agriculture. When selling seeds to Polish growers in the past year or two, the Polish government asked for McKeever’s grower number and she realized that she never received an official number in 1999. Once again, McKeever called the Department of Agriculture to come and visit to certify the property as an organic seed farm.
“They sent a young man out to the farm,” said McKeever. “He couldn’t find anything wrong with the farm, but of course they had to change something. Now we have to have temper-proof envelopes,” she said with a laugh. “I have to make sure no one switched cabbage seeds with cauliflower seeds.”
McKeever sells her Brown Envelope Seeds at the Skibbereen Farmers Market as well as online. She sells over 25 types of seeds, such as aubergine, beet, leaf beet, spinach, beans, squash, gooseberries and tomatillos, among others, depending on the time of the year.
As Brown Envelope continues to grow, McKeever hopes to bring an element of tourism to her farm. “I hope to get Sunday brunches to the farm,” said McKeever. “Then after the brunch people can run around the barn and communicate with the donkeys.”
Based off her past successes, I think that McKeever will have quite a successful farm brunch on her hands.