For three generations my family have farmed a hilly patch of land in Tyghan, County Tyrone. Before that we farmed in nearby Drummond for who knows how long - it's been part of who we are for centuries.
As was the practise at the time, my grandad had a mixed farm growing crops of potatoes and barley alongside pigs, cattle and sheep while granny kept chickens for eggs, got her milk from one of the cows and had a vegetable patch where she grew her peas and other greens. As farming changed and became more focused, Dad progressed the farm to include free-range organic chicken which is now our main source of income.
In 2014 I came home to farm full time so Dad and I now manage the farm together, with increasing responsibility passing to me. My aim is to keep the standards high by using the same traditional techniques we always have, which is not only better for the environment, it also ensures we produce the best tasting food possible.
Since returning home I have worked to reintroduce native breeds to our farm and have successfully transitioned our cattle from a mixture of continental breeds to a predominantly Shorthorn herd. Shorthorn cattle are a breed which are native to our islands and famed for their marbled meat, full of flavour. As a native breed they can be allowed to grow naturally and at their own slow pace, living long and happy lives in our grassy fields.
We’re always being told about the negative impact cows have on climate change, but cows reared this way are actually good for the environment. The grazing cattle encourage grass to grow which helps optimise the amount of carbon absorbed into the soil, reducing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Slow-grown, native-breed cows also thrive on a grass fed diet, so there is no need to intensively feed them grains imported from the other side of the world.
Farming with the environment has become central to what we do which has led us to plant hundreds of native trees and pollinators. We have also left plots of land untouched, allowing them to return to their natural state with flourishing ecosystems, which all results in our farm having a positive impact on climate change and we are very proud of that.
Over the past few years we started selling our beef to home cooks in small batches and have built up a loyal customer base. To help spice things up the kitchen we also developed our range of spice blends and smoked ketchup so our customers could easily add flavour and variety to our slow cooked cuts of beef, making good use of the whole animal. We went on to add meat-free recipes to the mix to encourage our customers to reduce their meat intake, choosing quality over quantity and playing their part in ensuring a greener, more sustainable future for beef farming.
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy our products,
Joel (The Curious Farmer)