Farmer who started making Christmas wreaths in school at age 10 now produces 150,000 a year

Conor Browne bought his farm five years ago in the mountains in south Co Wicklow

Eugene MastersonSunday World

Meet the young farmer who is supplying much of the Christmas wreaths for the booming Irish market this year.

Wicklow man Conor Browne produces 150,000 wreaths a year, over half of which are exported to the UK and EU.

Conor and his employees harvest noble fir foliage on his 75-acre farm to make the wreaths, with dedicated workers each producing around 300 of the creations each day.

The 31-year-old bought his farm five years ago in the mountains in south Co Wicklow, having initially leased land to grow the product.

And it all happened by chance as a result of an experiment when he was a boy in primary school. “We made a wreath in arts and craft class, brought it home and hung it on the door,” he tells presenter Ella McSweeney on RTÉ’s Ear to the Ground.

“I wasn’t too happy with it. Mam was showing everyone it. I said ‘Mam let me make a proper one’. I gathered my moss, gathered my pinecones, dried them in the hot press. Got one of her wire coat hangers from the wardrobe and low and behold I had this lovely wreath on the door.

“So, people started to place orders then and the rest is history.”

He has now making wreaths for 21 years and has more than 60,000 noble fir trees on his farm, most of which he harvests every year for foliage.

He also has a flock of sheep, which he uses to eat weeds in the plantation and also for fertiliser.

At the peak of harvesting the crop in October and November about 40 people work at gathering the foliage.

“For us, our business is all about sustainability,” he explains. “We are planning four trees for every single Christmas tree that’s harvested.

“Our foliage production, we are never cutting the tree down, we are continually harvesting off the one tree.”

He has a section of the farm which he allows trees to be cut down by customers who pick and choose which one they want for Christmas.

Conor also runs another part of his operation in which he supplies greenage and foliage all year round for the likes of bouquets and decorations.

Ear to the Ground is on RTÉ One - 7pm

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