What was the inspiration behind setting up a community owned farm in Northern Ireland?
As a community owned farm, what we do is about reconnection and putting the culture back into agriculture. We believe that more people need to be connected to nature and that food while undomesticated is inherently natural. We recognise this loss of this connection with food and with the environment. Healing this relationship will lead us closer to food security and a restored environment. To do this, we connect the issues to people who may previously have not recognised them. We want to prove that agriculture and the environment are not in conflict, they are two sides of the same coin.
Who buys your fresh, local, and seasonal produce?
The seasonal and chemical free veg boxes are mainly distributed to the local community in County Antrim, to people living in the towns and villages (especially Whitehead) surrounding the farm. We have a farm shop on site, which is popular, and we deliver a short distance for online orders. We have community hubs where families come together and order in bulk and share the produce between themselves. Volunteers also come from across South and East Antrim and come in to work and learn with us on the farm. Our ½ goat and ¼ pig are delivered in a broader area into greater Belfast.
Have you noticed an increase in interest in sustainable food after the pandemic?
Yes, not just after but during, there were more people wanting to buy locally. The increased demand meant we had to quickly adapt our patterns and make our products more accessible. There was an explosion of volunteer work during the pandemic, people wanted to work together outdoors to reconnect with nature. It was very encouraging. There is a new core of volunteers which have stayed on and helped, even after things have opened up and furlough has ended. We have integrated the volunteers with a refugee project to allow these two isolated communities to form relationships.
What are your best sellers?
Our veg boxes are very popular we make sure they have a great quantity, quality, and variety of vegetables. The ¼ pig have a very loyal customer base and are always sought after. The farm tours and courses are also well attended.