John O'Sullivan

Dairy Farmer

St. Patrick’s Day in rural Ireland is steeped in traditions centered on farm and family. County Cork dairy farmer John O’Sullivan describes a typical observance.

“I get up, do the milking and check on the cows that are close to calving. We go to mass and have dinner (what Americans would call lunch) at home. Then we go to the town of Clonakilty for the parade. It’s a 1 1/2-kilometer line of people in fancy dress, singing and dancing. The parade is lovely. The days are getting brighter and sunnier around this time of year and local supermarkets distribute free green ice cream cones to the children,” he said.

For their St. Patrick’s Day dinner, the family enjoys traditional Irish food. With warmer weather, they like lighter fare, such as a market plate, which is easy to assemble with local ingredients. The market plate consists of an assortment of cold meats, smoked fish and Irish cheeses served with mustard and chutney, and accompanied by hearty chunks of brown bread.

Dubliner cheese is always present on the O’Sullivans’ market plate. O’Sullivan supplies milk to make Kerrygold Dubliner, a popular Irish cheese with a natural sweetness, the flavor of a mature Cheddar and the bite of an aged Parmesan.

Ireland’s farmer and producer cooperatives ensure the survival of small family farms. O’Sullivan has a herd of 50 cows but the average herd size in Ireland is 60. The local farmers pool their milk to make butter and cheeses at local co-op creameries and the renowned dairy products are exported around the world.

For Irish dairy farmers, quality starts with the grass. “The climate suits the grass. And the grass is brilliant. It’s a premium product,” O’Sullivan observed. “Our cows go onto grass pasture as soon as they calve. They are rotated amongst the paddocks to ensure they get fresh grass after every milking.” The quality of the grass is reflected in the quality of the milk, which is reflected in the quality of the cheese, O’Sullivan explained.

For St. Patrick’s Day, try the family’s market plate and raise a pint to John O’Sullivan. The Dubliner cheese you bring home from the grocery just might have come from his farm.


Mrs. O’Sullivan’s Market Plate