Coveney reopens Airfield urban farm after €11m revamp

Redevelopment of 38-acre working farm in south Dublin includes gardens, cafe and new farmyard

Airfield, Ireland's largest urban farm and food gardens officially reopens its doors to the public. Video: Daniel O'Connor


The contrast between Airfield Farm’s “oasis of calm” and the “craziness of commerce” at the nearby Dundrum shopping centre was highlighted by Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney when he officially opened the redeveloped estate in south Dublin yesterday.

The 38-acre working farm has been reopening to the public on a phased basis since October after an €11 million redevelopment. This weekend will see a programme of events and activities to celebrate the work.

Visitors will find a new farmyard, milking parlour, redesigned gardens, indoor and outdoor play areas and a cafe that will be supplied from the farm’s gardens and orchards.

Flour will be made from the farm’s corn maize while a maze of another kind should be a popular play area when the apple trees that will form it have grown.

A heritage centre tells the story of the farm’s original owners, the Overend family, who put Airfield into trust in 1974. Mr Coveney said Letitia and Naomi Overend were “two extraordinary women” who had the vision to use their farm to educate the public.

Where milk comes from
He said the farm was about educating the new generation, “many of whom have no idea where food comes from, how it’s produced, its provenance and value and its links to nature and history”.

Children will be able to see Jersey cows being milked in the new farmyard and Mr Coveney said it might shock some people to see that milk does not come from a carton. He said he hoped some families visiting Dundrum shopping centre would cross the road to the farm afterwards for “a reality check”.

It appears that Airfield trust was one of the few charitable bodies to benefit from the recession. Its director of innovation Gráinne Millar explained how it had sold two fields for €19 million during the boom and was able to buy them back for less than half the price in 2012. This handsome profit funded the redevelopment and mollified some local people who had opposed the sale.

Visitor numbers
The farm is expected to attract 200,000 visitors this year, although Mr Coveney said he thought the figure would be even higher. He got a whistle-stop tour on a golf buggy and was relieved the estate’s grand 1927 Rolls Royce was not used – he said it might have cost him a few votes.

He noted that Letitia’s car was unique in being the only Rolls Royce in the world that had never been sold after its initial purchase. The sisters were passionate about cars; both attended a course at the Rolls Royce School of Instruction in London so they could maintain the car themselves.

Apologising for the absence of local politician Alan Shatter, who was on Dáil duty yesterday, he said he would be recommending that the Minister for Justice visit the farm. He could do with getting away from it all after a “tough, tough few weeks”.