A Cuppa With John
This month's Cuppa with features John O'Toole, Director of Operations and Sustainability at Airfield Estate.
Where do you want to see Airfield in 10-15 years time?
Having been part of Airfields evolution for the past 15 years I have seen a significant transition from the Overends family home to a visitor and educational amenity in the heart of a city location, which in many ways fulfils the Overends/Airfield Trust request. In the next 15 years, I would like to see Airfield being equally transformative forging research and consumer behaviour change resulting in positive influences related to both food and environmental challenges, that face us every day. It’s time to go beyond the walls of Airfield and expand our reach. Wouldn’t it be great to enhance Airfields financial sustainability too!
What does being an operations manager at Airfield mean?
We often describe Airfield as a little village with so many activities that are operational seven days a week. If you take a step back we are a visitor attraction, educational amenity, farm, gardens, private events, food and beverage, farmers market, public events, administration, festivals, facilities, a heritage experience, pre/after school, garden centre and commercial/residential property. We are a very dynamic site with many activities operating simultaneously with the team having a customer focus to ensure a social and educational experience in a safe environment. Our carbon footprint study and sustainability focus has given the entire team renewed ‘operations’ energy (pardon the pun)
What’s your career path to being part of the Airfield team?
Both my parents were self-employed which instilled a great work ethic and I set up many enterprises before my first ‘real’ job with the top 5 accounting/business advisors BDO Simpson Xavier. From there I worked in a smaller accounting practice, the motor industry, multi location retail entertainment and a start up food and beverage franchise.
The best thing about working at Airfield?
There are lots of great things about working in Airfield. The outdoor environment is magic…… sun, showers or snow and I’ve seen them all. Where else can you find an urban farm practicing regenerative agriculture, gardeners producing organic fruit and vegetables that is cooked /served on the same location, in Overends Kitchen…..the taste is incomparable. I’d like to believe that we have had and will continue to have, a positive health, wealth and planet influence on our multi-generational audience. I learn something new every day from our exceptional team and last but by no means least …..my Friday morning flat white!
Do you have a highlight of your time working in Airfield Estate?
After 15 years there have been many highlights. Completing the Evolution Project to enhance the visitors experience was a two year project that transformed the entire estate. Being part of a team that has agreed our mission and strategic journey, setting the foundation for the future is also a highlight. Todays highlight would have to be how the entire organisation pivoted during COVID from farmers market to click and collect veg boxes and from chefs to cooked meals for those who needed them most. Airfield has continued the latter initiative through our Good Food Delivered programme and will soon commence an onsite cross-generational menu planning, cooking and no food waste programme to engage families that need this support. I know this will be a huge success and will be a highlight not just for me but for the entire team.
How do you like to spend your time outside of work?
I’ve been an active athlete and coach most of my life with Kilcoole AC where I promote inclusion and socialising, ahead of competition. It is very rewarding to watch these kids develop as people through life and as successful athletes………one of which will represent Ireland in her fourth Olympics this month in Tokyo! Apart from that…….my family, our dog and I learned to sea swim during COVID and haven’t missed a week since May 2020 and no I don’t have a dryrobe!
Best advice you’ve ever received?
There are two……..’Dance like no one is watching, text and email like it will be read out in court someday’ and ‘No matter how bad your day is going you can be sure someone else is hurting more than you’
Thank you for sending in your questions this month, keep an eye for next month's cuppa with question box on Instagram in a few weeks.