Not Kidding Around – Forward Thinking Farming at Broughgammon
Becky and Charlie Cole’s story reads like a modern-day fairy tale. Girl, a fashion blogger and stylist, meets boy, an innovative and ambitious farmer, swaps her heels for wellies, and they live happily ever after on a sustainable farm on the rugged North Antrim coastline.
“Becky and I met in Dublin,” explains Charlie, “she managed to lure me away from the farm for an interview, she was working as a blogger and journalist at the time, and it was love at first sight! We got married at Becky’s home in County Wicklow last September.”
Charlie grew up on a farm not far from Ballycastle, the little town in Antrim where up a long winding lane you will find Broughgammon Farm. “We actually purchased this plot in 2002 and it was only when I graduated from uni that I saw the potential to start farming the land.”
In 2011 Charlie set up Broughgammon, a forward-thinking family business that rears ‘surplus’ male kids and calves from dairy industry for meat, with ethics and sustainability at its core.
Becky says she quickly fell in love with what the farm was doing; “It’s been such an education, learning everything from how to skin a deer to the importance of preventing food wastage. It’s so great to be part of it all!”
“There are times, mainly in the cold, dark winter when are hours are long and baby goats are demanding that I do miss the hustle and bustle of city living, but I feel what I gain from this lifestyle and the education I get daily from working and living here outweighs those moments ten fold.”
With a host of awards under their belt for sustainability, Broughgammon are one of the small-scale producers whose culinary creativity and imagination is driving the Northern Irish food revolution. Charlie says because of both intensification of agriculture and lack of consumer demand male kids and calves were an under utilised resource before Broughgammon began producing delicious and healthy cabrito kid goat meat and free-range rose veal.
“It’s amazing to think that kid goat is eaten as a main meat in many countries. Over here people are just not used to cooking with it or seeing it as a delicious alternative to lamb and beef,” says Charlie. “The big issue for veal though is that it was traditionally reared in low-welfare systems, and that stigma has remained with it.” Though Broughgammon is fast changing consumer perceptions.
“There’s so many advantages for eating goat and now more and more people are knowing them. Goat’s incredibly healthy, it’s very low in cholesterol, low in saturated fats, and contains lots of nutrients; it’s also delicious, a sweeter, milder and less fatty version of lamb; and then it’s also using up a waste product from the dairy industry. It’s a brilliant meat. The same with rose veal. It’s a very ethical meat to eat and stops food wastage and exporting of livestock. Customers are starting to realise that now and are purchasing it regularly.”
The farm to fork principle is very much embedded in the Broughgammon ethos; they have their own artisan on-site butchery, and tucked away off the butchery is their little farm shop selling their cabrito, rose veal and seasonal wild game, another traditionally neglected resource. They also run a series of ‘The Good Life Courses’; seasonal cookery, butchery and wild game classes.
“We’re a real family farm as we all have to work in the business,” says Charlie. “There’s Becky and I; Becky runs marketing and sales, while I run the farm and help out in the butchery. Then my dad Robin, apparently retired, is in charge of the calves and helps on the farm, and my mum Millie who is in charge of the butchery and book keeping.”
All the family “muck in” at the weekends to help out with their various events and at markets, including Charlies brother Sandy, who is based in Dublin. “We think he misses it really, and maybe there’ll be plans in the pipeline for us and Dublin in the future, watch that space!”
Last year, Becky’s marketing and blogging experience came to the fore when setting up their online shop, giving them a platform to sell their meat boxes far and wide; satisfying people’s curiousity and changing perceptions of these unconventional meats with each delivery.
“Doing events such as Ballymaloe Litfest, selling meat boxes on our website and now doing the Temple Bar Food Market every Saturday has meant we’re constantly finding new consumers for our produce throughout Ireland and the UK too,” Charlie says. At events the Rose Veal Steak Burgers, Pulled Cabrito Wraps, and Goat Tacos, among other dishes, go down at storm; particularly at craft beer festivals.
“Becky and I love cooking a kid goat leg mutton raan style with 2 days of marinating and then baking it with a coating of yoghurt and spices. It’s so good! We also cant get enough of our rose veal fillet steaks, they are incredible,” he adds.
For those in Ireland looking for a taste of Broughgammon without having to step in the kitchen, restaurants where Broughgammon is a staple ingredient include Kai in Galway, and Forest Avenue and Pickle in Dublin; where the goat mince curry with shallots, garlic and black cardamom is now a customer favourite.
While running a farm and business is all consuming, you get the sense that Becky and Charlie truly love what they do, and their herd of goats is a big part of that. “They’re really a pleasure to rear!” Becky says.
“They’re really inquisitive, friendly animals, so that makes it all a lot easier as they aren’t running away from us, like sheep would for example. As for their intelligence, they are never to be underestimated. We always have one naughty goat escaping constantly!”
“One of our favourite goats was Mr.Sexy,” Charlie says. “He was very handsome and so friendly. We had many requests for him to go off as a stud goat actually, and unfortunately that’s how he passed away, in action on Rathlin Island!”
Erica grew up with a baker and confectioner for a father, and a mother with an instinct and love for good food. It is little wonder then that, after a brief dalliance with law, she completed a Masters degree in Food Business at UCC. With a consuming passion for all things food, nutrition and wellness, working with TheTaste is a perfect fit for Erica; allowing her to learn and experience every aspect of the food world meeting its characters and influencers along the way.