Describe where you live and work, and what is it you do.
My name is Graham Roberts and I live and work in a small fishing village in Aillebrack near Ballyconneely in the beautiful setting of Connemara, County Galway Ireland.
I live with my wife Saoirse and four children in our home overlooking the Atlantic. All we need to do is step across the road for a invigorating swim. We have a windswept garden with a small vegetable patch where we try to teach the children where food comes from plus the added bonus of enjoying our own tasty vegetables.
I run the Connemara Smokehouse and I often leave around 4 or 5 o’clock in the morning to take a two minute drive, 5 minute cycle or 10 minute walk to the Smokehouse which is perched on the edge of the Atlantic beside my parents home and at the top of Bunowen Pier.
Is your work part of what defines you as a person? If so, why?
My work is certainly part of what defines me. I believe that everything one does in life should be done to the best of one’s ability. I have enormous passion for what I do and take great pride when I see the enjoyment people get from my products. Some people think I’m crazy because of the long hours I work, but some of them spend three hours in their car every day commuting to jobs they don’t enjoy, so I figure if I have a job that I really enjoy, live in a place that I love and make a living, then I’ve got it pretty good.
Does your work allow you to feel a connection to life and its sustainability, not just through the product you provide but by how you acquire it and work with that product?
With everything we do at the Smokehouse, the impact on the environment is a major concern, as we must not only think of the here and now, but for future generations to follow. We use sustainably sourced wild and organically farmed fish prepared in the traditional ways of my family because they are the best. Hand-filleting, dry-salting and resting the fish are essential components of traditional methods that require time and attention.
We also take various measures towards environmental sustainability such as:
- We use Airtricity (wind powered electricity) for our electrical supply.
- The smallest standard packet size we produce is 200 g as this only uses half the amount of packaging per kg than the all too common 100 g packet or worse again the 50 g or 40 g.
- The main ingredient used for cleaning is elbow grease and water followed by a biodegradable detergent for sanitisation.
- We source our fish locally, so that it is at its freshest, it is not having to be transported for hundreds or thousands of miles and it supports the local economy and local community.
- Other measures such as line fishing for tuna were worked upon by my father and I to help develop an environmentally friendly way of catching tuna.
- We also work very closely with the Marine Institute towards conservation of Wild Salmon stocks (and have done for almost 30-years)
Finally, my father was a fisherman before starting the Smokehouse in 1979 and so a huge knowledge and respect of the sea has been passed on to me.
It has been said that modern day, conventional farming on a large scale barely involves the intelligent input of the farmer when it comes to working with nature’s elements for health and resilience. How involved are you in the process of what you do and provide?
I am extremely involved in every aspect of my business. Experience and handed-down knowledge have taught me what works best, and this provides a continued involvement in what I do, always improving, always discovering aspects that make my products delicious and healthy.
How long we smoke and dry the fish varies every single day depending not only on the weather but by the look and feel of the fish itself as I believe this is where the quality and consistency of my products comes from. I know of no other Smokehouse small or large where the boss fillets, salts and smokes every fish that passes through the smokehouse. Everybody involved in the Smokehouse are either family or friends and care about the business. I am very good at what I do and have a great team to work with, but it is vital that I remain hands on with all of my products not just because I am passionate about it but because it is the promise I make to my customers.
What makes you happy and content? How do you spend your moments of leisure if there are any? What do you give thanks for?
Spending time with family and friends, specially my wife and children makes me happy. I really enjoy the simple pleasures of life like walking on the beach with the children and discovering a completely new world in their eyes. We love foraging on the shore and in the fields for a shellfish feast or to make some lovely home-made blackberry jam or pie.
I love cooking. We love having friends over for dinner and experimenting with new dishes and what is really important is that we all sit down together as a family at dinner time and catch up on the days events.
I am very content between home and work, but I do like to travel and try new foods and through them enjoy different cultures.
I give thanks to a place that I love, a job I enjoy, to my four beautiful children and above all to my wife Saoirse who makes this all possible.