The Fitzsimmon family have lived in East Ferry, Midleton, County Cork for generations. Robert Fitzsimmons' mother started the ball rolling in farming terms, when she produced a flock of 700 turkeys each year for private sale. She also produced chickens for Ballymaloe Cookery School and Ballymaloe House, and Declan Ryan's former restaurant Arbutus Lodge. Robert grew up around that, and as a young man, started keeping hens for eggs production until regulations forced him to change tack several years ago.
But his natural inclination for poultry farming and the great outdoors has brought him right back to the industry in the last couple of years. Still based in East Ferry, Robert and his wife Yvonne established his own free range poultry farm in June 2008. Robert uses mobile housing to ensure a healthy environment for his birds. This means that the portable houses can be towed to a new patch of clean ground, immediately after each is emptied of a full grown batch of livestock, allowing a proper full rearing and cleaning cycle to be maintained. The birds are free to roam in wide open pastures and behave exactly as they should when given plenty of fresh air and a natural lifestyle. And it also means finger lickin' chicken - or goose, or turkey. And soon, ducks will also be available. Robert acquires day old chicks from Cork and goslings from Wicklow, and brings them on to full maturity on the farm. These birds are the crème de la crème, totally traceable, and matured longer for a more well developed flavour.
Another ethos at East Ferry Free Range is to keep prices affordable, so families can enjoy the benefits of a good quality bird. Chicken in particular is a very popular choice for families, but the price of supermarket free range birds is often over the top and out of the food budget for many. East Ferry Free Range birds are available to order from the farm and via small butchers and food shops in the locality and orders are taken early for Christmas turkeys and geese. A new flock of ducks looks set to be established soon so watch this space and look out for East Ferry Free Range poultry when you are in the Midleton area.