Hidden behind lush green fields on the Lisglass Road close to Ballyclare is the family farm of Louise and Ian McFall. In addition to the sound of the farm animals including cows, sheep, miniature goats, hens and rabbits, the laughter of young children can also be heard as the farm is also the home of Primrose Hill Day Nursery, which cares for 29 children aged 2+ from Monday to Friday.
Local business woman Louise McFall is no stranger to running her own child care facility, having previously owned and managed a successful nursery in Newtownabbey for 15 years. Her nursery provided care for 142 children and employment for 47 staff but in 2007 she decided to sell the business and dedicate her time to providing foster care for four children. Being back on the farm she realised the lifestyle and benefits which were available for young children.
With business in her blood, Louise decided to carry out some market research to identify if there was a need for childcare facilities in her area.
She said: “The research clearly indicated that there was a gap in the market, there was a definite need for nursery facilities on the main commuter route between Larne and Belfast.
“My home farm in its rural location is within an easily accessible route, and offered a wide catchment area of Ballyclare and beyond. I felt this was the ideal opportunity to enable the farm to diversify, to not only create a new source of farm income, but also employment opportunities and a unique experience for children to enjoy the great outdoors.”
To set up the business, Louise needed to construct new premises where the nursery would be based. With funding opportunities available from the Northern Ireland Rural Development Programme which is part funded by the European Union, Louise applied for the necessary financial support to help build and furnish the nursery.
A total investment of £47,500 was awarded from the Local Action Group GROW South Antrim which was used to build the nursery, fit out the building and purchase the indoor and outdoor equipment. The business has provided spaces to care for 39 children aged 2+ and has created 6 full-time jobs and 1 part-time job, while a new baby facility is awaiting planning approval.
But this would not be any ordinary childcare facility, Louise’s combination of a farming background with her years of childcare experience offers her nursery children and her fully qualified staff a unique style of daycare.
Angela Halaseh, Manager of Primrose Hill Day Nursery and Louise’s daughter said: “We have a large outdoor area which includes swings, slides and a tree house, so the children are not cooped up indoors all day, instead they are encouraged to get a healthy dose of fresh air when they can. The children also have the opportunity to care and feed the resident farm animals which includes miniature goats, hens and rabbits. The children even have their own allotment plots to grow vegetables and flowers.”
Vera McWilliam, Chair of GROW South Antrim Local Action Group commented: ”I am delighted to see Louise McFall take the opportunity to invest in her new business and set up this much needed daycare facility on the Lisglass Road; the children are certainly benefiting from their experience on the farm and are enjoying a very healthy lifestyle as a result.
“GROW can award funding of up to £50,000 to farm diversification projects or rural businesses that are expanding or diversifying and I would encourage anyone interested in such opportunities to get in touch with GROW on Tel: 028 9448 1311 or visit www.growsouthantrim.com to find out what support is available to assist them in advancing their idea.”