by Catherine Gilmore for the Johns Island Farmers Market
Carroll O’Neal of Irish Farms is a far cry from the every day South Carolina farmer. The level of success he has on his farm makes one believe he’s been doing this his whole life; however, Carroll has only been farming on his property for thirteen years. Though his fruits and veggies are flourishing, Carroll still finds time to dabble in other hobbies such as hunting, pigeon racing, and of course, running for the House of Representatives.
In his younger years, O’Neal never imagined that he would end up becoming a farmer; growing up in downtown Charleston where the yard space was scarce, farming was never in the picture. Shortly after his family moved to Mount Pleasant, O’Neal went on to college in Jacksonville where he obtained his degree electronics engineering, a field he had been interested in since childhood. Even before receiving his first car, O’Neal had a hankering for technology; he even set up an electric sound system for his family’s piano, also sparking a bit of interest in music that would grow throughout his life. Though O’Neal grew up a well-rounded man, still nothing pointed to the direction of farming he would eventually take.
After the medical device career, O’Neal took on general contracting work which took him around the world. Though he traveled for a great span of his life, O’Neal still had the desire to settle in Charleston. Shortly after purchasing a home downtown, his wife and daughter noticed a piece of property on John’s Island. They both convinced him to put it into consideration. In an interview, O’Neal mused about the last day he had to decide on the property, saying he witnessed about fifty ducks and realized at that moment it was the right place for him. O’Neal packed up his family and moved to John’s Island where he began planting his fruits and vegetables. Now thirteen years later he has over fifteen different crops, all non-GMO and naturally grown.
O’Neal has been attending the John’s Island Farmer’s Market since its inception. An avid participator, he makes sure that if he can’t attend personally he has a helper that will sit in. He caters to customers old and new; most of the connections he’s made have come from the market by people who get their supply of fresh veggies and green boiled peanuts every week from him. O’Neal is thankful for the opportunity to become closer with the community through the Homegrown market and intends to keep room in his busy schedule every Saturday morning to attend.
Carroll can be contacted by phone at (843) 224-9001