the son of a County Meath landowner Lord Dunsanny. When a young
man he went to north America where he engaged in ranching in the
mid west. Upon returning to Ireland in 1889 he embarked on a campaign
urging farmers to form themselves into cooperatives, to process
and sell their produce and jointly buy in bulk the many things farmers
required. If his proposals were implemented they would eliminated
the middle man at both ends of the market and leave the farmer with
a significantly improved profit margin.
Farmers are a notoriously conservative
bunch, and initially his proposals met with little support, as a
landlord he was distrusted by the people. Being a Protestant the
Catholic church distrusted him and shop keepers feared losing their
trade. However by 1914 many of these fears were overcome and in
that year there were there were over 1,000 'co-ops' under the umbrella
of 'The Irish Agricultural Organizations Society' which Plunkett
founded in 1884.
Dairy farming was the most successful
sector of the movement, previously each farmer made and sold their
own butter and quality varied enormously, this was largely the cause
of the demise of the famous Cork butter market. The co-ops established
creameries made the butter in hygienic conditions, and packed it
in convenient one lb blocks, it was not long before creamery butter
replace farm butter in the shops.
Many creameries in operation
today probably owe their origins to Plunkett, although the ownership
of most has passed from the farmers to the hands of large business.