Taste Kilkenny – Episode 4: Goatsbridge Trout Farm
I have eaten so much Goatsbridge Trout product over the last few years that I feel the urge to swim up river when spring comes calling. It was high time I went to visit the farm to see what kind of plaice my fish comes from.
Goatsbridge Trout Farm sits two miles out of Thomastown in county Kilkenny on the way out to Mount Juliet. Following from my visits to Highbank Orchard and the Zwartbles farm, it was only a matter of time before I returned to visit more local food producers. It is nestled between some tall trees and the water. I had the leisure of a few minutes to myself in the driveway and between the wind gently savaging the trees and the water flowing near by, I’m not codding you, those were some of the most relaxing moments I’ve had in a long time.
Mag and Ger Kirwan are the second generation power team behind the Goatsbridge Trout brand. He is an engineer and a proud father, she is the vision and the drive behind the brand. When I think of strong, successful women, I think of Mag Kirwan. She is full of energy and enthusiasm and she has the clearest vision for where Goatsbridge Trout is going. She is an extremely likeable and inspirational woman and she makes my feminist heart sing.
I have dealth with Goatsbridge Trout for a couple of years now. At first, I put together a couple of recipes and photos for their website. Later on Mag started putting together a book of fish recipes in aid of Hospice Uganda. I participated in the collection of recipes from women of all walks of life around Ireland, and I now consider myself a very proud Fish Wife. All this to explain that my visit to Goatsbridge Trout farm was well overdue at this stage.
Mag gave me the grand tour which included a walk up and down the basins where the trouts are kept. They’re a friendly sort really, but as we pace slowly beside them, they all come rushing to the surface. Mag explains they’re just hungry and expect to be fed when they see humans, but this a lot less fun than my idea, which is that she is, simply, a trout whisperer. All jokes aside, the whole area is green and lush and you can smell the beautifully fresh water. Mag expends on how they work on a “flow through” system, this means that the trout are constantly in moving water, just like if they were in a river. Apart from the food (which I’m told is the best money can buy), nothing is added or taken away from the water. The production chain is completely natural and as the fish is prepared to order it means you only ever get the freshest trout.
All products sold under the brand are now made at the farm, including the award winning smoked trout pâté and the iconic trout caviar. The pâté is a simple mix of fish smoked at the farm and mixed with cream cheese from a local creamery and some mayonnaise. It doesn’t get much simpler or tastier than this fishy treat. To me, this is Irish food at its best. Fresh, grown and prepared somewhere you can come and visit. When you buy a pot of their pâté, the money doesn’t evaporate in the offshore accounts of a big multinational. Instead, the money stays in the Irish economy, puts their kids through school and one day through college. And finally the money you pay goes towards paying 25 employees fairly. And I love that.
Mag and Ger Kirwan are on a mission to get people to eat more fish and embrace homegrown products. You will see them involved in the community through their appearances at all the food festivals and the industry conferences. But if you get really lucky, you will get to see Mag running in a trout uniform.
So don’t be koi, take the bait and come to the visitor centre, Mag will surely show you a whale of a time!