https://orcid.org/ 0000-0002-6520-5387

Document Type

Conference Object


Business | Entrepreneurial and Small Business Operations

Publication Details

Conference paper presented at the 16th European Conference on Innovation and Entrepreneurship, ECIE 2021 ; : 598-604, 2021. © 2021 Academic Conferences International Limited.


This case study presents an analysis of Leahy’s Open Farm, a family business that has continuously reinvented itself, since its launch in 1996. The open-farm industry in Ireland is a niche that faces many regulatory, organisational and economic challenges. This case study presents an overview of the challenges and potential for this growing market. Challenges include; rising insurance costs (33% increase) and dealing with (50% reduction in revenue in 2020) and recovering from the economic impact of COVID-19 restrictions. Leahy’s have been able to develop the business by adding new revenue streams, nurturing employee skills, harnessing their competency base and consistently applying an organisational learning mind-set. A firm innovation capability perspective is employed as a theoretical lens to analyse Leahy’s strategic intent, use of resources, processes and mind-set that enable them to develop the business. Primary and secondary data collection methods were employed. Semi-structured interviews with Leahy’s open farm leadership and staff as well as ethnographic observations. A literature review of open-farm publications and interviews with an Irish state agency in agriculture, horticulture and food was conducted to develop an overview of the open-farm industry in Ireland. A key finding from this study is the observation that the open farm industry in Ireland is not regulated or supported by a state body and falls between two government departments (Agriculture & Tourism). In the UK however, the National Farm Attraction Network (NFAN) provides supports and collects data on open farms. NFAN have been helpful to Leahy’s in the absence of an Irish network. This lack of support is likely to result in an inconsistent approach being taken by open farms in Ireland, and results in an un-coordinated approach to managing and promoting the market. A roadmap for open farms (Figure 1: Roadmap for Open Farms in Ireland post COVID-19 Economic Crisis) has been suggested to aid these businesses to strategically plan for the future. Leahy’s are an example of an open-farm that has consistently sought to be a leader in this marketplace and has demonstrated an admirable capacity to innovate through fostering an open and innovative environment. This case study demonstrates how firm innovation capabilities can be applied to analyse the innovation capacity of small family businesses and sets an agenda for increased research and development for the open farm industry in Ireland.