The Healing Power of Organic Food

1. Overview   2. The Long Road Home   3. Organic Farming   4. Developing a New Market   5. Agri-Environmental Schemes   6. Conclusion   7. Image Gallery

Mairead Costin


Máiréad Costin


Ring, Co. Waterford

Farm Type:

Organic Horticulture

Participating Schemes:

Farm Size:

1.5 acres

1. Overview of Máiréad Costin

Máiréad Costin is an organic horticulture grower in the Gaeltacht area of Ring in Co. Waterford. She is the owner of Garraí Mara Organic Veg Farm and is proud to be joining the growing number of women who are making their living in Irish agriculture.  Máiréad currently grows a wide range of salads and vegetables which she supplies to many businesses in the nearby town of Dungarvan. She is a certified grower with the Organic Trust and has joined the Organic Farming Scheme (OFS) for the first time this year. She also runs ‘Bumproom’ pregnancy fitness classes in Dungarvan, and she has previously taught a Level 5 Fruit and Vegetable module.

2. The Long Road Home

“I decided to learn to be in nature and heal and that is where the journey started.”

Like many people of her generation, Máiréad travelled abroad for years before deciding to come home and settle down on her family farm. Máiréad originally trained as a general nurse in Cork city and worked in healthcare for 20 years before becoming a farmer. She then registered and worked in Scotland and New Zealand before returning to Cork. Máiréad completed a post graduate course in Tropical Medicine and worked in the Sudan before eventually transitioning to Physiotherapy.

 Although she had not originally intended to become a farmer, farming came along at the right time in her life. Describing her reasons for coming home and becoming a horticulture grower, she says “it was for my own health and well-being. I was drained and burned out from the health system.  I needed a break from looking after people. I decided to learn to be in nature and heal, and that is where the journey started.” 

Máiréad Costin

3. Embarking on a New Career

Máiréad’s father had a ¼ of an acre at the back of his house which used to be an old haggard and this is where Máiréad took her first steps into the world of horticulture. “I had decided I wanted to get into nature and learn about horticulture,” she says, “but I didn’t know that I’d eventually be doing a business out of it.”  While she was on a career break, she completed a year-long full-time internship with a horticulture grower in Co. Clare.

“While I was up there, I realised there was the potential for me to have a business in horticulture. So, I asked my dad if I could use the 1/4 acre that was being left idle.”

There was a lot of work to do to get the land up to a suitable standard when she came home in October 2018. That winter, the field was harrowed and planted with cereal rye and winter vetch; a green manure mixture.  Máiréad and her father used a quad bike and a small trailer to bring in a neighbour’s horse manure to feed the green manures. “So, the following spring then,” she remembers, “I had a plan in place to turn it from a field into a kitchen garden first of all.  In the meantime, I got a temporary job with the HSE working as a physiotherapist which was supposed to be a six-month contract which eventually rolled into 2 years with the pandemic on top of it.” 

Máiréad quietly made a plan to realise her vision for what the farm would look like.  This plan included the location of the polytunnels and the rotation of her crops.  Then, “in 2021 I made the move and set up the business; Garraí Mara,” she says.  The ¼ acre is situated within a dairy farm which is managed by Máiréad’s brother. It was becoming obvious that more land was needed for Garraí Mara to become a viable commercial enterprise and so Máiréad was able to secure an extra acre from her brother to expand the business: “In 2021 I officially converted to organic horticulture.”  Máiréad is currently certified as an organic grower with the Organic Trust. 

Máiréad Costin Polytunnel

In September 2022, Máiréad heard about the Organic Farming Scheme (OFS) and decided to join. The process of joining has been relatively straightforward in Máiréad’s opinion, and she will shortly begin her first year of a two-year higher payment transition period. Although Máiréad has no plans to do so at the moment, she says that in the future she may consider the TAMS3 Organic Capital Investment Scheme or the Women Farmer Capital Investment Scheme to help expand or improve her business.

4. Supplying the Local Community

“It’s been brilliant. It has been very positive so far.”

Máiréad has no regrets about her change of career. Although she does concede that, “it is a fulltime gig. You have to plan your time off and I do plan my time off. I find it is a good quality of life even if you are tied down during the height of the growing season.”  The success of Garraí Mara is certainly keeping Máiréad busy. Garraí Mara is the only certified organic vegetable and salad leaf supplier in the area and so is meeting the local market demand for such produce.  Demand for her produce is so high in Dungarvan that Máiréad can sell everything that she grows.

“I’ve built up a good relationship with a lot of good businesses in Dungarvan.  There are really good restaurants, cafes, bakeries, and health food shops in town. I’ve also been supplying an artisan food supermarket in Waterford City since 2021 as well as a bakery down there. They are all really good businesses to be involved with and that is what is keeping the vegetables flying out the gap”

Some of Garraí Mara’s suppliers include Merry’s Gastropub, Dún Artisan Bakery and Cass & Co.

5. Plans for the Future

Máiréad and her partner have recently celebrated the arrival of their first child. Keeping the business ticking over for the next few years, while also juggling family life, is the priority. Looking further ahead, Máiréad is already planning to diversify her income streams rather than expand her overall land area. She has already hosted Social Farming groups which have been very successful.  Máiréad also plans to run training courses in organic gardening in the future. Judging by how far Garraí Mara has come in a few short years, the business will only go from strength to strength. 

Further information on the Organic Farming Scheme can be found here. Information on the Women Farmer Capital Investment Scheme (WFCIS) and the Organic Capital Investment Scheme (OCIS) can be found here.