From pig farming to Reiki master seems like a bit of a stretch, but that’s the direction Caroline Rigney is taking. For the last 21 years she’s been as happy as a pig in chemical-free manure, producing the best possible food to sustain a lifestyle she and her husband chose to rear their two daughters, Rebecca, 29 and Rachel, 27.
Caroline and husband Joe are not afraid of change. In 1998, Joe was in paving and wanted a better location and lifestyle for their kids. They saw the field and asked “Could we, would we?” And they did.
The quick acceptance of their offer for the 14.5 acres was a bit of a shock, as was getting the bank loan so easily. “We were mad for land, and were living in Kildare. We spotted this field and all of a sudden we were living in west Limerick,” says Caroline.
Ten years ago they starting using the adjacent field to accommodate more livestock as meadow for cows, pigs in paddocks, and breeding stock to respond to demand for produce. “I knew we had to be versatile to survive”, says Caroline.
You couldn’t do just one thing on a farm. We had to add value and produce rashers, sausages, and black and white puddings.
This was initially to provide for guests in their bed and breakfast — the house was too large just for themselves. “People started to ask us for our produce outside the B&B so we found ourselves increasing output.”
These days she does the Friday market in Listowel, selling rashers, sausages, black and white pudding, beef burgers, and steaks, while on Sundays Joe goes to Killaloe. This is more a lifestyle market, so he cooks burgers and serves them with homemade relish and cooked onions. “It’s a lovely spot, where people enjoy the day of leisure, and is less about shopping.”
Then there’s Caroline’s delicious granola, started when the weakest link in her Irish breakfast was imported cereal. She experimented, and got it so right it became another product in great demand. In local shops for the last two years, it’s also in hotels such as Inchydoney, Dunmore house; the Strand and Woodlands hotels in Limerick and Leen’s Hotel, Abbeyfeale. All demand has grown organically, by word of mouth.
Back home in Curraghchase, we find happy pigs — the boar Tumba and five sows Jilly-Sue, Maeve, Copper, Mundy, and Muc. The small, rich brown litter is a cross of Tamworth and Berkshire known as Plum Pudding.
Cows are shorthorn pedigree, a beautiful, traditional Irish breed, hardy enough to be able to stay outdoors all year long, so are 100% grass fed. Caroline has had three cows for breeding for 12 years and clearly loves them.
The red, white, and mixed colour (roan) fit the landscape beautifully.
This idyllic farm, a generous vegetable garden, laying hens, ducks and geese provide ample self-sufficiency, but the Rigneys are looking to downsize and work just a little less and sell the farm and house.
It’s a beautiful spot and obviously has huge scope and potential for a young family to sustain a healthy lifestyle, including, as the Rigneys did, supporting university education. They are not in a rush, though Caroline would like to do more of what currently fascinates her: “I think that now my journey is leading me to more Reiki”.
A Reiki master, she has also trained in reflexology and aromatherapy.
Conversations at the markets when times were tough resulted in her listening to customers and realising she enjoyed helping people. “I know I did some good as people rang me afterwards to thank me for allowing them to unburden themselves. It didn’t feel like that to me, but I was glad to have helped.”
Joe is happy to go with the flow, continuing to do stonework, paving and landscaping.
“What I know now,” says Caroline, “is that the thing you thought you might do can become a whole other journey. Joe and I are on another journey. If we sell that will be good, if not, we’ll keep developing the farm.
“We love the area, the beautiful walks early in the morning, and we love west Limerick. We are open to whatever happens.”
It will be ‘Lifestyle with Benefits’ no matter what happens.