Life Down on the Farm with Donegal Rapeseed Oil

We talk to Stephen Allen, on of the Farmer/Company Directors of Donegal Rapeseed Oil, about life, the weather and making great culinary oil!

We have come to a time when the majority of us are further removed from our food production than we ever were. When chickens in dinosaur shapes are demanded by children and plastic coated packs of fruits, vegetables and meats are the norm for the shopping trolley. There are small towns in Ireland that once supported several butchers and a couple of greengrocers. Now you’re lucky to find one of either in a town. We think it’s time to bring back the culture of agriculture our ancestors worked hard to maintain.

Have you ever wondered what it’s like down on the farm in Ireland? We decided to talk to a few of our farmer producers about life’s little happenings every day, in a job where the weather is your boss and market prices dictate what you make. It’s a bit different from sitting in an office! Stephen Allen, Farmer/Company Director of Donegal Rapeseed Oil, tells us what’s been happening in his world the last few months.

Stephen is one of a group of Farmers in Donegal who grow rapeseed for their own production of Donegal Rapeseed Oil. They use the seed to cold virgin press home produced best quality culinary oil that’s really tasty and extremely good for you. Stephen talks here about how he’s coped with the weather the last few months on his farm on the Donegal/Tyrone border, and how his planting system works. 

‘Well we’ve been waterlogged since October, along with the rest of the country. It’s been raining since then! I know it’s a common complaint! We were wondering if it wouldn’t be better to build an ark at this stage rather than try to get round the land the normal way! The storms have seriously delayed things for us and we were already late because we didn’t manage to get our crop sown in August as we would normally do. We are now having to wait till April to sow it, and it will be ready in October. We’re hoping the land will have dried up a bit before that so we can get sowing.

When you harvest you can’t press straight away, the seed has to sit for a while. The spring crop which we will be planting doesn’t have quite the same potential as the winter crop we would have had if we’d sown in August. That would have been growing over winter and harvested in July and you do get a better yield that way. The spring crop will be flowering around July, so the fields round here will look beautiful and bright yellow. The plants grow shorter in the summer crop than the winter crop plants – about 3-4ft tall as opposed to 5-6ft which is pretty impressive!

The way we grow is in a rotation system, we plant about 40 acres of our land with rapeseed every year, and we rotate to regenerate the land. That’s really good for bringing back the nutrients after you’ve grown a crop. It takes 2 ton of winter crop seed per acre to produce 1000 x500ml bottles of Donegal Rapeseed Oil. We tend to get less seed in summer.

When we’ve finished pressing for oil, the rape cake which comes from the husks of the seed goes for animal feed. It’s really good for cows they love it! We started making Donegal Rapeseed Oil back in 2005, but before that we were growing rapeseed for bio-fuels. We were the first to use it to produce culinary oils and it’s good to see other people also doing it now as well in other areas of Ireland. We are very proud of our product. It’s pure and natural and really good for you as well!’

We couldn’t agree more Stephen. We think it rivals any olive oil from the Mediterranean for cooking, dressing and everyday use. It’s great for heart health too, containing the Omega 3 & 6 fatty acids we all need plus Vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant for cleaning the blood which also promotes healthy skin.

Find out what the professionals do with Donegal Rapeseed Oil and check out the inspirational recipes online here.