Two Irishmen have set up a business selling dirt to nostalgic Irish Americans who want a handful of "the mother country" on their graves.
Pat Burke, 27, and Alan Jenkins, 65, have just shipped their first $US1 million load of "official" Irish soil to New York - at $US15 per 340 gram bag - and confidently expect it will be followed by many more.
"The demand has been absolutely phenomenal," Burke, an agricultural scientist from County Tipperary, said on Friday. We knew it would take off but not in our wildest dreams did we expect the reaction we've had so far."
Burke, who has patented a way of processing the soil so it passes US import rules that demand it is free of disease and non-indigenous insects, said the pair were in talks with "one of the world's largest retailers" and a US shopping channel.
"We're looking at going worldwide," he said. The firm has pledged to donate 80 per cent of its profits to charities in Ireland and the United States.
For more than a century Irish people were forced by famine, poverty and unemployment to abandon their home country, the majority of them settling in North America with the result that today some 40 million Americans claim Irish ancestry.
Globally, the number of Irish people living in another country is estimated at more than 70 million. Burke said the idea for the business - whose website www.officialirishdirt.com will go live shortly - came about after Jenkins attended an Irish association meeting in Florida.
"He found that all that these second, third and fourth generation Irish wanted was a drop of the old sod - a true piece of old Ireland - to place on their caskets," he said.
The firm has already received an order from an elderly New York businessman, originally from the west of Ireland, for $100,000 worth of dirt.
"He was in two minds about his final resting place, but now he's decided to be totally immersed in a full grave of Irish soil - in Manhattan," Burke said.