Leahy’s Open Farm in Condonstown, Dungourney, Midleton, is investing over €300,000 to construct a new glamping site in response to the growing demand for accommodation pods. The family-owned farm is also opening a new ice cream parlour and has been lucky enough to avail of grants from LEADER and other government initiatives. The farm was transformed from a small pig and dairy farm into an open farm in 1996 by Donal Leahy and his wife Teresa, who took over the running of the 25-acre farm from Donal’s parents, Eddie and Eileen. Initially, the farm was just displaying the plethora of vintage machinery and antiques Eddie had collected over his lifetime.
Guests who visit the farm are predominantly Irish families, but they also get overseas visitors who are staying locally, including people from the UK and the US. Donal and Teresa have been working to meet the demand for accommodation pods for many years, but COVID-19 put a stop to their plans. However, the pandemic also led to an increase in customers asking for places to stay near the farm, or better still, if they could stay on the farm.
“We have been considering glamping pods for a long time. We do have campers who park up in our carpark, and that has been happening for years, but we had no facilities in the carpark to cater for campers, so it is not ideal,” Teresa explained. The farm has secured a local builder, Brian Rodgers and his team in Woodview Building, to construct the pods on-site in Midleton. The eight pods will sleep up to six people and will have a kitchenette, couch, dining area, bunk beds, double bed, and en-suite bathroom. Guests will be able to avail of the open farm during their stay in the glamping pods.
“We have not finalized all the details yet for bookings, but we are looking at a two-night minimum stay per pod,” Teresa said. The pods will be located beside the open farm and Cnoc Ceo Woods, with walks and a holy well and lake to explore, on foot or on bikes. A chocolate factory on-site adds to the appeal. The farm hopes to have construction complete in the next two months, and then it will need landscaping. An official opening date has not been announced, but they are hopeful that it will be in late summer 2023.
The Leahys are investing over €300,000 in the new glamping site, and they have not received any funding for this project. “We have been lucky enough to avail of grants from LEADER and other government initiatives. However, we are investing over €300,000 on this project,” Teresa continued. “We cannot wait to open the pods to customers later this year.”
On the thorny issue of insurance costs for such facilities, Teresa said they have a great relationship with their insurer, but unfortunately, paying extortionate premiums has become part of the business. The Leahys are also constructing a new ice cream factory on-site as they have outgrown their current building. Their ice cream is sold in Cork, Waterford, and South Tipperary.
On the farm, one of the museums has been revamped and is now looking amazing. There is a lovely new cow for milking demonstrations, and the new fairy trail is open in the little forest. The farm is currently full swing with school tours, so it’s a busy, busy time. Christmas, Easter, and Halloween are also hectic times for the Leahys, who work to constantly update their facilities and activities.
The changeover from traditional farming to agri-tourism was easy enough, according to Teresa. “It was something we were enthusiastic and energized about, and we put 100% of our energy into developing the open farm idea. ‘Yes, it came with its fair share of stress and worry, but we wouldn’t look back now. The future is very bright for our farm, the local employment created, and the vibrancy of an ever-developing tourism economy in the east Cork area is very exciting; we are happy to be part of it,” she said.
“We’ve always had people asking us for recommendations of where to stay when visiting the farm. We get families from Galway and Sligo who come to see Santa every year. Family-friendly accommodation can be hard for families to find, and we are always looking for new ways to diversify the business. We’ve gone glamping with our family and loved it, so we went for it.”
Leahy’s Open Farm is a fantastic example of agri-tourism in action. The farm has successfully transformed from a traditional farming operation into a thriving tourism business that caters to families and visitors from all over the world. With the addition of the new glamping site and ice cream parlour, the farm is poised for further growth and success in the years to come.