Local independent retailers have always been at the very heart of the community and this article about Castlehill Farm is part of special series called Around Aberdeenshire to showcase the local producers livening up our towns and our taste-buds.
Enter Ian Garden and Maxine Tarry from Castlehill Farm, a local farm based just outside Methlick. Here I found out about how they started their farm from scratch, their produce and more.
‘I always wanted to be a farmer when I was growing up.’
Ian admitted to me, Maxine had always wanted to live out in the countryside too, so the two tied together quite well.
After initially buying a rundown farm house with 7 acres of land back in 2005, they set about renovating the house and land to make their dreams of running their own farm come true.
In 2010, after doing some research they decided to go for it, buying 75 additional acres of land and starting a breeding program with Soay sheep.
The meat from the Soay is lean, tender and low in cholesterol. It has a stronger flavour with a gamey taste when compared to more common sheep breeds.
After a year they were hooked and quickly followed in 2011 introducing a line of pedigree Belted Galloway cattle.
The Belted Galloway is believed to have been a cross of the Ancient Galloway and the Dutch Belted cow the Lakenvelder in the 17th – 18th centuries. It’s easy to spot with it’s unmistakable belt of white markings around the midriff. The “Beltie” has a double coat of hair rather than the layer of backfat most other breeds require and so their meat is therefore more lean and succulent.
Both breeds of sheep and cattle were chosen for their hardiness to endure the harsh Scottish winters and their resilience to disease, which makes them ideal for Ian’s traditional farming philosophy:
“We like to let the animals live as wild as possible, which gives them the best quality of life possible and matures them slowly, leading to a better quality of meat.”
Supermarkets with their increasingly high expectations mean farmers are often forced into rationing the food their animals consume to try and keep them all the same size. So it’s refreshing to see Castlehill farm sticking to the roots of farming and focusing on producing the highest quality of meat possible instead of size.
In 2012, Castlehill farm introduced a line of Boer Goats and due to popular demand they have become one of the farms flagship products today.
There are a few skeptics out there that still believe goats should be only pets or for milking, and originally only the cull from a diary goat farm in the UK has become meat.
The Boer goat which originates from South Africa has always been exclusively bred for meat, and there’s a good reason for that.
The Boer is a naturally stocky breed and much better in both texture and flavour than meat taken from a dairy goat, as is true of the difference between beef and dairy cows.
With a texture in between lamb and beef, it’s easy to cook and with low fat and low cholesterol it’s even healthier to eat than chicken!
For new comers trying to cook goat for the first time it can be a little intimidating, so Ian and Maxine recommend starting with a part of the meat, you’re most comfortable cooking and try not to use too many spices so you can fully taste and appreciate the flavour.
“Try to avoid making a curry straight away, as you’ll find it harder to taste the full flavour. I usually advise new customers to give goat sausages a go, as they’re a great way to start out and wet your appetite.”
Ian and Maxine have done amazingly well to start their farming business and they’re loving it. They’re focus right now is maintaining the farm, bringing up their kids and passing their knowledge on to them so they could potentially take on the farm when they’re older.
You can find out more about Castlehill Farm on their website CastlehillFarm.co.uk, on facebook or come on down to have a chat with them at the Ellon Farmers Market (4th Saturday of the month 9am-1pm) or Huntly Farmers Market (1st Saturday of the month 9am – 1pm).
Local independent retailers have always been at the very heart of the community and these articles make up a special series called Around Aberdeenshire to showcase the local producers livening up our towns and our taste-buds.
Also published on Medium.
Categories: Around Aberdeenshire
Thanks for stopping by the bendifa blog, here we and our community are posting and sharing stories and learnings around local, sustainable and community oriented food and more.
We hope you enjoy and if you'd like to be kept in the loop head over to our sign up page.
Ross & Jing
Founders of bendifa