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Glasswater Farm

What was the inspiration behind setting up a specialist vegetable farm in Northern Ireland?
Our founding idea was that quality, flavour, and vitality do not travel. We are the evidence that you can taste the difference when your vegetables are grown locally and not intensively.
Both mine and my husband's parents are from Belfast. We have been in operation for 43 years growing vegetables, since 2007 we have been supplying more and more restaurants as Northern Ireland has become more well known for its culinary scene. My husband has great connections with the chefs, as he has dealt with them since they were sue chefs and now they are big names in the industry. When he hand delivers the vegetables they can get to know him, the producer, personally. We keep a close eye on michelin trends world-wide, so we can grow vegetable varieties that are in demand in the industry.

Who buys your fresh, local, and seasonal produce?

Chefs from all across County Antrim. We have a radius of 40/50 miles from the farm. We are sometimes asked to expand and export to England but we always refuse. If we expanded the travel area, we would be going against our philosophy and potentially affecting the quality of the produce. At the moment, the vegetables are picked and are at the restaurants ready to be cooked within 12 hours. That would be completely impossible if we expanded.

Have You Noticed an Increase in Interest in Sustainable Food After the Pandemic?
Without a doubt! In March we didn't have a brand, we only had these individual relationships between my husband and the chefs themselves. But, when all the restaurants closed, our polytunnels were full of produce. I posted on my personal social media pages if anyone would be interested in a home delivery service and it went viral! The next day we had 2000 likes and an interview on BBC radio 4. We decided, because of the huge interest, to use a local church grounds to set up a drive-in collection system for families to pick up their vegetables. It was very popular and continued for months, now we have set up a home delivery system and have loyal direct debit customers. Our friends who sell vegetables locally have also seen an increase in sales and interest.
People are now aware of the huge effect that intensive farming has on quality and taste. There are great education points we have with customers, they were not aware of the hunger gap from April - July because, in supermarkets, vegetables are imported to cover it. This small connection that the customers have with the growing season is a gateway to them seeing food in a more natural way.

What are your Best Sellers?
Probably our salad leaves. People are astounded when they don't go over after a day in the fridge, like salad leaf packs from the supermarket. Tomatoes are also very popular, we feed them with seaweed grown on the north coast. Romanesco broccoli is always sold out quickly. We are so proud of the reviews we get from our home deliveries, people say they haven’t tasted vegetables like this since they were children, that we’ve pushed them to cook with more vegetables, and that they feel like they’re a part of a new community of veg lovers.

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