A day of celebration was staged last week to mark 100 years of the Dungarvan Co-operative Society which was set up by farmers to improve the lives of all in their communities.
The strong community spirit first shown by the seven farmers who gathered in the market square in Dungarvan was still evident a century later as people from near and far turned out at the Glanbia CountryLife store in the Co Waterford to mark the occasion.
Over the action-packed century, the Dungarvan region proved to be a pioneer on the dairy scene, as the Co-op negotiated a major contract with Cow & Gate for the supply of roller dried powder milk. It proved fortuitous as it saw them through the lean times of World War II.
Dungarvan then led the amalgamation of nearly all the Co-ops in the region to join together under the umbrella of the Waterford Co-op which revolutionised milk collection with the introduction of the first bulk tanks in the country.
Siobhán Talbot, Glanbia Group managing director, paid tribute to the work of the current staff and the ingenuity and vision of the founding farmers who set up the Co-op and drove it in its early years.
“Dungarvan was always at the pioneering edge of the dairy sector in Ireland and the farmers, staff and directors showed great innovation over the years. People are the key to a strong enterprising business that adapts to consumer needs and that’s still the case today.”
Among those in attendance at the celebrations were Minister of State Andrew Doyle TD; Glanbia Ireland’s chief executive Jim Bergin; Glanbia group Chairman Martin Keane; Glanbia board member and Waterford farmer Ger O’Brien; members of the Waterford Senior Hurling team; farmers and staff members, both past and present.
Glanbia Ireland’s CEO Jim Bergin highlighted that both farmers and rural businesses are key parts of the network that ensures our communities continued to thrive.
“Glanbia paid approximately €1billion, including VAT, last year for milk directly to 4,500 farmer suppliers across rural Ireland. That is around €300m more going into the economy for milk than in 2014."
“Waterford is a hugely important county for Glanbia. Last year Glanbia paid €149 million to farmers in the county of Waterford for their milk, and continues to be a major employer in the region."
“We are continuing to invest with progress going well on a strategic partnership with Royal A-ware, a Netherlands dairy producer, for a €140m world-class continental cheese production facility at Belview, near Waterford port.”
Glanbia board member and farmer, Ger O’Brien said the centenary celebrations marked a momentous occasion for all those in Dungarvan.
“The history of the Co-op shows the innovation displayed by farmers and Co-op staff members as they overcame adversity and ensured the Co-op blossomed over the years into a strong modern-day enterprise,” he said.
There was a party mood as WLR broadcasted live from the celebrations, while children enjoyed face painting, a pet farm and treats such as the popular Avonmore Mooju drinks.
An afternoon BBQ was held, while Wexford strawberries and Avonmore summer cream were among the tasty refreshments.
It was a chance for the people of Dungarvan to look back over the history of the Co-op and the community over a century that saw marked changes to the dairy sector.
In the 1960s, the introduction of bulk tanks for milk collection transformed the productivity of farms, enabled farm expansion and had a wide-ranging impact on the social fabric of rural communities.
Joining the EEC in 1973 gave a further huge boost to the dairy industry and by 1982 the Co-op had passed the 100 million gallons per year mark in milk intake.
It has continued to grow with Glanbia Ireland now processing a 2.7 billion litre milk pool since the ending of milk quotas, with three separate investments totalling €343 million euro in facilities in the rural economy since 2015.