Latvian Garlic and Donkeys at Derryherbert Farm

Charlie Maurisa from the County Mayo venture tells us how a green-thumbed grandmother helped inspire a love of farming.

by Phillip Mlynar
PHOTO: Courtesy Derryherbert Farm

“I never expected to be a farmer or had any yearning to become one,” admits Charlie Maurisa, who raises Latvian Garlic and Donkeys at Derryherbert Farm in County Mayo, Ireland. However, after relocating from London to a property brimming with possibility, the urge to farm set in and Maurisa established Derryherbert Farm alongside their partner.

Specializing in garlic, the venture has since instilled in Maurisa a deep appreciation of the land, which is situated just a few miles in from the Atlantic Ocean. “The most rewarding aspect of running the farm is seeing the combination of my efforts and nature resulting in the creation of produce and life, be it the free-range hen’s eggs, the bees thriving and producing honey, lambs being born or a successful crop,” explains Maurisa. “Seeing that life being created gives me the most reward.”

Taking a moment out from farming duties, we spoke to Maurisa about the roots of Derryherbert and the farm’s resident donkeys. We also got into the enduring nature of Latvian garlic.

Passing On The Knowledge


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Growing up in Latvia, Maurisa benefitted from having a close relationship with a grandmother who enjoying growing her own vegetables, especially garlic.

“She passed onto me a wealth of knowledge that I thought I had completely forgotten over the years,” says Maurisa. “Once I arrived in Ireland, this forgotten knowledge came back to me and a passion grew to recreate my grandmother’s smallholding here in County Mayo.”

Spotlight On Latvian Garlic

In terms of the venture’s setup, polytunnels form a key part of Derryherbert Farm. “They’re still in their early stages of development,” says Maurisa. “I’ve had some failures and some successes and learnt a lot from both experiences.”

Specifically, Maurisa pinpoints garlic as a great success on the farm. “I’ve grown this from seeds passed from my grandmother to my mother and now onto me,” says Maurisa. “The Latvian garlic seems to enjoy the conditions here and the initial crop saw me harvest about 5,000 bulbs of excellent quality.”

Getting spcific, Maurisa says that Latvian garlic bulbs are larger and sweeter than usual.

Tomatoes, Chillies And Roots

Looking back over last year’s farming bounty, Maurisa says that tomatoes, chilies, beets, spinach, cucumbers and leeks all prospered.

“A lot of my produce supplies the kitchens at a local hunting lodge,” explains Maurisa. “The summer surplus I’ve used at home to make salads plus relishes and chutneys from the excess tomatoes and chillies. The surplus cucumbers have been pickled. Later in the year I use the root vegetables for stews.”

Introducing The Donkeys

Overlooking Derryherbert Farm are a couple of sister donkeys named Lilly and Priscilla. “Their official duties are grass cutting and acting as fox deterrents during the lambing season,” says Maurisa. “They love life here: They have a warm dry shed, plenty of space to graze and are thoroughly spoilt by both myself and anyone that visits.”

Delving into each donkey’s personality, Mauirisa says that Priscilla is confident and enjoys cuddles and neck scratches, while Lilly can be more wary of humans but loves to eat from the hand once a person has gained her trust.

Looking Forward To 2024

When it comes to farm plans for 2024, Maurisa says Derryherbert will be experimenting with new varieties of tomatoes and chillies. Additionally, the number of garlic beds on the farm will be increased to accommodate new types of the allium.

“I planted a few dozen trial Aronia plants (also known as chokeberries) back in 2020 and they seem to be happy enough with the conditions here,” adds Maurisa. “So I’m particularly excited about developing the Aronia berry side of the farm’s business—it is a great antioxidant and reputably the planet’s healthiest berry.”

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