A WELL-known North Clare business has adopted a creative method of increasing productivity while also inciting people to get out and take a closer look at their surroundings. The proprietors of Linnalla Pure Irish Ice Cream are urging people to put on their boots, grab their buckets and gather berries.
As well as giving people a good excuse to get out into the countryside, there is also an added bonus. There is the opportunity to be paid for good-quality produce in the right quantities.
Linnalla is looking for people to pick the autumn harvest of wild blackberries, hazelnuts and sloes for use in the company’s ice creams.
Bríd Fahy, the woman behind the ice cream, explains. “The last few years when I went out picking berries, it was myself and the children and the children’s friends. This year, we have a lot of demand for a wide range of ice creams and we just couldn’t physically do it ourselves. It was getting too big for us.”
The Fahys needed some help to gather a harvest.
“I was thinking that I have to get someone else to do it for me but I also thought you could be paying someone to go out and collect berries and they could just be picking one berry one per hour if they wanted. So we thought that the best thing to do was to put it out to people and let them pick them in their own time and come to us and we would buy the product rather than hiring someone to pick them,” Bríd outlines.
Payment is made by the kilo and the price depends on the quality of the fruit. “Picking a kilo of blackberries would be no problem either now when they are in season. Coming up with a kilo of hazelnuts is no problem either but I want them out of their shells. The Burren is just laden down with hazelnuts so it is very achievable,” she continues.
In the retail sector, Linnalla offers vanilla, honeycomb, mint and chocolate flavours, which in the service industry, it offers many more including sloe gin flavour, a particular favourite, according to Bríd. The popularity of her wildberry biscuit ice cream is also increasing and this is why the ingredients are needed.
Though she now uses 10 kilograms of fruit per week for the ice creams, “I would safely say that the way demand is growing, we could do with 30kg to 40kg but it has to be good quality and well ripened.”
Picking the berries, Bríd believes, need not be a chore, in fact, for the most part, it can be a family event.
“The berries would be accessible, as would the hazelnuts and under supervision they would probably be okay for children to pick. The sloes, though, would be a bit harder to get at so I think they would be better left to the adults,” Bríd says.
While Bríd blends and produces the ice cream, her husband, Roger, takes care of the cows and between them, they try to bring Linnalla along with the seasons using only flavours that are local and in season.
“We are farmers and these products are out there, why wouldn’t we use them?” Bríd asks, “why would we buy vanilla in from France when you can go out and these things are there?”
Picking the fruit locally has the added benefits of being environmentally friendly and it is also a way to prevent the spread of brambles.
Most of Linnalla’s customers are hotels and restaurants but it is also stocked in some retail outlets. For those who want to get a taste of the produce, there is currently a special promotion running on tubs of the ice cream in Super Valu in Gort, Kilrush, Ennistymon, Kilalloe, Fr Griffin Road in Galway city and in Oranmore.