If we hadn’t missed the turn, we’d have missed the cabbages.
As it was, we drove past our intended destination, through the gently undulating Comber countryside and spied the fine sweep of dark green and leafy heads, awaiting harvest in the fields. We saw them again as we figured our way back down the road to the turn for Mash Direct, an entirely modest roadside sign belying the size of the enterprise beyond.
Here I was, then, in Comber, Co. Down – a place well known for its early potatoes – invited to see, at first hand, the operations at Mash Direct, a company established nine years ago by Martin and Tracy Hamilton, as a means of addressing the increasingly small returns they were getting from their family potato farm. They started by turning their spuds into champ – a traditional Irish mash with spring onions and butter – and selling it at market stalls. They have since expanded considerably, with over 100 employees now producing a range of some 30+ mostly potato-based prepared vegetable products, which are sold in Ireland, the UK and even as far away as Dubai, while back at home, work will get underway shortly to double the size of the production space at their farm in Comber.