Women Of The Irish Food Industry – Kylie Magner, Eggs Producer
Kylie Magner is the driving force behind Magners Farm. Magners Farm produce organic eggs and now broth.
If like me, you follow the farming and food side of Irish twitter, you will likely have come across Kylie Magner. Kylie is better known as Magners Farm on twitter.
Much like Aisling Flanagan, Kylie Magner offers a look into the bucolic side of rural Ireland and food production and it works. Because, what brand comes into my mind if I think great eggs and happy hens? Magners Farm. And that’s me never having tasted those eggs. Even thought I have a deeper understanding of marketing and the power of social media than the average consumer, I am not immune to it.
This is testimony to the extremely intelligent work Kylie Magner puts into her venture. Inspiring and admirable, I am sure you will agree.
I’m talking to women the Irish food industry. How did your career path bring you here?
I’ve always wanted to return to the land. I grew up on a mixed farm – cattle, sheep and cropping – in Australia and I always felt a longing to return. For a lot of my working life, I worked in the thoroughbred/racing industry in PR and marketing. I worked with bloodstock auctioneers William Inglis & Co. in Sydney and was Media Director for the advertising arm of Coolmore in both Australia and Ireland.
I came to Ireland in 1998 on a working holiday visa, hoping to find a job and stay for 6 months or so. I went racing at the Curragh to the Derby and met my prospective employer who suggested I call in to the office and have a look at the farm. He asked if I wanted a job and if I minded doing menial office jobs. I jumped at the chance – to be employed within an organisation such as Coolmore was really a massive offer, no matter what job I was doing.
I like to think I worked very hard when I started there – it was a great opportunity. I was lucky to be given more responsibility which eventually led to my position of Media Director. It enabled me to travel to some of the best race meetings in the world, meet some amazing people in the press, be involved with breed shaping stallions such as Galileo, Danehill and Sadler’s Wells and learn from some of the best people in the advertising business. I loved visiting Ballydoyle with the press – Aidan and Anne-Marie O’Brien were inspirational and the facilities and horses incredible
Part of my job also involved digital media – it was exciting watching social media and the internet develop at such an early stage before it became so mainstream.
I never really mapped out a career path and if I had, I’m not sure it would have had a chapter on egg farming! I do know that I’ve always wanted to return to the land – I just wasn’t sure what I was going to do.
I feel very fortunate to have had the background I have had in marketing – it’s so important as farmers that we are able to tell our story well.
How does your career fulfill you?
Every day is different. At this stage of our children’s lives, it’s brilliant to be able to be your own boss. Attend school events, sports activities, picks ups, drop offs – the work still has to be done as it’s just me (& Billy when he finishes his day job!), but we can do it when it suits. I love the variety – marketing and social media, working hands on with the hens (even cleaning out the sheds), cooking and tastings at shops and the markets. No day is the same.
I loved the idea of bringing up our 4 children on the land – showing them where their food came from. The idea of being able to feed your family from your own farm is a massive feeling of achievement for us. To be able to sell our products to others, create an ethical and sustainable model of food production and in turn improve the soil health of our farm is a bonus.
What are your professional ambitions? What’s next for Kylie Magner?
I would love to be able to create a sustainable model for other farmers – improving the circular bio economy on our farm is a massive goal of ours and ties in with our recent joining with the Irish Organic Association.
“The bioeconomy, or biobased economy, is a new model for industry and the economy. It involves using renewable biological resources sustainably to produce food, energy and industrial goods. It also exploits the untapped potential stored within millions of tons of biological waste and residual materials.”
In the context of our own farm, this means supplying as much of the intake of the hens via our own farm and utilising all of the “waste” products such as manure and “spent” hens in a useful manner to benefit our own farm so that they don’t become a liability – rather another resource to improve our production.
Eventually there will be more than one income stream for us. We feel it’s important to start small and learn as much as we can about our business before we move on to the next project. At the moment our eggs are sustainable – we are committed to continuing this method of farming – much of it will remain hands on so we can retain that level of contact – both with our hens and our clients!
In your opinions, what challenges women face in the food industry in Ireland?
Probably the same challenges facing women in most industries. If there are children involved, it’s a challenge to create a good environment for them to grow up in whilst still devoting enough of your time and energy to making your business successful. I think there are too many talented women just getting out there doing their thing these days – we are lucky to be now in a society that values women and be surrounded by supportive men who want to see us succeed.
Tell us of one woman in the Irish food industry who consistently inspire you and why?
Can I please have two?
Darina Allen – her books are a constant source of reference and inspiration. I was lucky enough to spend a few hours in a car with her last year. From the moment I met her, she was interested and full of advice on what we were doing. She had so many great ideas and has such a wealth of knowledge. Farming, cooking, growing, marketing. And with such enthusiasm! I honestly don’t think there is anyone quite like her.
Maria Flynn – Ballymakenny Farm. She is always so full of advice, grit and determination. I am constantly amazed by her energy.
What do you think can be done to help raise the profile and visibility of women in the food industry in Ireland?
More press – behind the scenes of so many farmers and chefs there are team of hardworking women who probably aren’t big on stepping in to the limelight.
What was the proudest moment of your career so far?
Winning the Chef’s Choice Blas na hEireann for our chicken bone broth. There was nothing quite like hearing our name called out at the Awards ceremony.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Be confident. Even if you’re not, pretend you are.
What are the top skills required to do your job and why?
Determination – there are days when you’re exhausted but you just need to get up, show up. The hens don’t take any days off, so we don’t really either!
Marketing has been a big help to have on our side. I’m so appreciative of the time I spent working with Coolmore. Obviously we aren’t selling stallions, but the philosophy is still the same. Telling our story and what makes us different.
What’s your favourite way to eat an egg?
I pretty much love eggs any way, but my absolute favourite would be a perfectly poached egg (so much better if they’re fresh pasture raised eggs), served on buttery sourdough bread, crisp grass fed bacon, homemade tomato sauce and butter fried mushrooms on the side. Yum!