Dungarvan’s Dún Artisan Bakery celebrates its first year in business. Co-founders Fergal Walsh and Caitriona Keating are navigating the demands of self-employment while raising a family of young boys.
The sourdough specialists are based on the Waterford seafront near Tramore and with the opening of their own bakery in 2021, their long-term commitment to self-sufficiency is beginning to bear fruit.
“Caitriona studied nutrition at university and always wanted to be self-employed in the food industry,” says Fergal.
“My route was less conventional. I started out as an electrician and hated it. I was 21 at the time, and even when I was staying with friends, I made soda bread.
“I took jobs in various bakeries and grocery stores in Ireland and beyond, and spent time in Copenhagen and Brisbane.”
The couple wanted to run a bakery with sustainability at its heart and associated with very low food mileage.
They opened their own shop on Main Street in Dungarvan, a seaside town well known as a culinary destination.
“We source our flour from Oak Forest Mills in Kilkenny, Durrow Mills in Laois and Dunany Flour in Louth,” says Fergal.
“We would like to make 100 per cent of the flour we use in the bakery Irish, but that’s just not possible at the moment. The wheat here is not hard enough and soft wheat affects the quality of our sourdoughs.”
The pair have started a bakery with a hyper-seasonal, origin-led menu that ebbs and flows weekly, often daily, while Fergal and Caitriona create breads and baked goods that spotlight locally grown ingredients.
“I am the baker and Caitriona is the bread baker. Making sourdough is a three-day process and the starter is the foundation of our business,” says Fergal.
“There are a lot of variables at play, so we’re trying our best to keep everything under control. This week is very hot, but we have a few tricks to keep the process on track.
“On Fridays we usually have a monster cake that cooks 500 pastries and 500 breads.
“Caitriona works from Tuesday to Saturday and I work from Wednesday to Sunday. This allows us to ensure that the farm is looked after every day of the week, while also making time for the children and the farm.
“On a typical day, I start baking at four in the morning and finish around four in the afternoon. Caitriona works most days from 8am to 7pm. She is the driving force behind the business and keeps us all on track.”
The bakery features the farm’s fruit and berries, rhubarb, baby beets, chard, kale and more, all hand-picked in the evenings and weekends with the help of the couple’s four boys, Ceadyn (17), twins Shea and Cole (4) and Colin (2).
They also use elderflower, which the family collects locally.
Fergal and Caitriona’s passion for baking with the seasons and reducing their carbon footprint as much as possible is best demonstrated on their 0.2-acre property near their home.
For the last five years they have cultivated the land to grow a crop of over 200 berry bushes – black, red and white currants, summer and autumn raspberries, strawberries, black, red and green gooseberries and about 10 species of tayberries and loganberries.
The only fruit bought into the bakery from an outside supplier is blueberries, but by next summer Dún will be self-sufficient on that front as well, with plans to plant and fruit 40 of its own blueberry bushes by then.
Their land is also home to a patch of wild garlic and 30 fruit trees ranging from black cherries, figs, apples and pears to plums, peaches, quince and black elder.
These are all grown using the No-Dig system, which mimics the forest floor to create a natural, healthy, and undisturbed habitat for the ecosystem below—all without the use of additives or pesticides.
The only fertilizer used is well-rotted compost and seaweed fertilizer, which Caitriona and Fergal forage along the Waterford coast.
“We work with nature and want to support a diverse ecosystem alongside the commercial fruit trees,” says Fergal.
“I’ve seen a lot of wildlife coming into the orchard, with shrews and buzzards often circling around.”
https://www.independent.ie/business/farming/rural-life/how-this-dungarvan-baker-is-using-fruit-he-grows-himself-to-live-his-self-employed-dream-41849284.html How this Dungarvan baker uses fruit he grows himself to live his dream of being self-employed