Dan’s passion for farming started then. As a youth, Dan’s childhood involved the farm and he was in the local Saanich Peninsula 4H Beef Club. At the University of BC, Dan continued his education in agriculture by studying animal sciences. He took veterinary medicine and agricultural courses and eventually met his wife Jean, who was pursuing a degree in Food Science.
After graduation, Dan pursued an agriculture career in the corporate farming world and was employed by Cargill Limited, a U.S. multinational company. He eventually managed one of Cargill’s large scale farming operations and soon recognized the problems that come along with ‘doing it big’. These were the excessive use of antibiotics and growth promotants in the raising of animals, which is a necessary reality in large scale farming, and was a practice that was contrary to his upbringing. Dan quit corporate farming and in 1987, he and Jean moved back to Victoria. While being employed with the BC Ministry of Agriculture as a Professional Agrologist, Dan still had farming in his blood. So Dan and Jean together started Ireland Farms with the plan of raising ‘natural free-range foods’ to feed their family.
“We wanted to raise food like I used to in 4H, and like my grandparents used to do it” says Dan.
This meant farming the old fashioned way. No growth promotants, no antibiotics, ‘free-range’ (outside with all of Mother Nature’s best elements), no commercial production and a lot of hard, physical work. Not an easy life.
There are no secrets in small communities and soon, word of Dan and Jean’s “natural free-range meats” spread to friends, and friends of friends. What started as a farm to feed the family was now feeding the community.
Now, more than ever, there’s a renewed focus on eating locally raised food. People want to know where their food comes from, they want to know how and by whom it’s raised. Dan & Jean Ireland, along with other local farmers, are leading the charge here.
“The consumer today is far more educated and knowledgeable in what they are eating and where they can get it from; they ask lots of questions” says Dan.
Those shared sensibilities have played a major role in Ireland Farms’ growth over the years; in 25 years they’ve grown it into the largest non-commercial turkey and chicken producer on Vancouver Island.
Keeping it in the family
Son and daughter Jason and Christine are the next generation of Irelands to get involved in the family business. Jason is co-managing the farm with Dan, while Christine, currently studying nursing, helps out with the veterinary and health aspects of running the farm. Together, they’re ensuring that the farm continues to feed their family for generations to come.
Like so many of the families that form their community, the Irelands are firm believers in giving back. While pursuing her degree in nursing, Christine played basketball at Camosun College. As a fundraiser, the girls’ basketball team would come out to the farm and load turkeys into trucks for processing at Thanksgiving and Christmas. In exchange for their help, the Irelands would make donations to the team. The Irelands’ still continue with other similar initiatives in the community.
Both Christine and Jason plan to carry on with the family business, and with spring in the air, they’ve been quite busy. They’ve delivered over fifty lambs this season (with as many as five lambs per mother!), and are expecting more soon. Ireland Farms follows the good production practices and standards of Chicken Farmers of Canada’s Free Range Animal Care program, raising their birds in a healthy and humane manner. They also raise beef, lamb, pork and turkey using natural and sustainable farming methods.
The farm sells their free-range chickens and turkeys at specialty meat shops throughout Victoria, like The Red Barn Market. They also have farm gate sales for local families and friends. From April until October, Ireland Farms’ free-range chickens can be found at all Red Barn Market locations. In the fall, orders can be placed for their free-range turkeys for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.
Ireland Farms is located at 1910 Meadowbank Rd, Saanichton, BC.
For more information you can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org or call at 250-652-3251.