Whether it’s creating award-winning cheeses from their dairy herd, to smoking amazing bacon, salamis and sausages, growing chemical-free vegetables and fruit, to creating a traditional herbal tonic or even designing and forging handcrafted chef knives, all at their base which is located outside Schull, the Fergusons have proven that there is no limit to what a farm enterprise can achieve.
Fingal Ferguson explains ‘First and foremost we are a dairy farm,’
‘My father inherited the farm back in the early 1970s and, as he and my mother, Giana, looked to enhance the business, it was a logical step that took them from milk to making cheese.’
Giana gave up the bright lights of London, married Tom Ferguson and took to a farming life in West Cork. They had a 250-acre coastal dairy farm and it only made sense that producing cheese from the milk that was already available to them was a natural way forward for the Fergusons and so Giana joined a number of revolutionary West Cork women, who were all creating their own cheeses around the same time, which also set up Gubbeen.
Fingal stated, ‘My mother created the first batch of Gubbeen cheese at our kitchen table in 1975,’
‘And, from there, as the cheese became more and more popular, they set up a little cheesemaking room, which has now grown to a full scale production facility with the milking parlour attached so that the milk from our herd has only a few metres to travel to the cheesemakers.’
Gubbeen cheese increasingly became a firm favourite with foodies and households as well as chefs around the country.
‘We used to get some of the cheeses smoked by a local fish smoker, Chris Jepson. When Chris decided to give up the business, he designed a special smoker for Gubbeen,’ Fingal said.
‘We’ve always had pigs on the farm and we began to experiment at first smoking bacon and then it grew from there into our salamis, chorizos, air dried hams and fresh sausages.’
In the meantime, Fingal’s sister, Clovis, used her gardening skills to grow herbs and organic vegetables to flavour some of the salamis and sausages, whilst selling her delicious produce at local farmers markets. Clovis has now found time to create a delicious drink called ‘Jamu’, which is a mixture of ginger, turmeric, lemongrass, tamarind, cinnamon, black pepper, honey, lemon and sea salt.
Meanwhile, Rosie, another Ferguson sibling, ensures everyone is organised and maintains the administration side of the farm enterprise. Fingal explains ‘The farmers’ markets are still very important to us.’
‘The markets are a fantastic way to try our produce, to see what people like or don’t like and also to get feedback directly from your customer.’
Fingal has also gained a well-deserved reputation as a master knife marker.
‘I inherited my uncle’s collection of knives; a beautiful selection from his travels around the world,’ Fingal said.
‘Of course, I damaged a few of them and decided I’d better learn how to repair them. From that point on, I found the whole process fascinating and, with a lot of help, I started making knives, as a hobby, in my spare time.’
Today, that hobby has grown into a business, which has had to stop taking orders as the waiting list for these handcrafted works of art has grown to over 300 people from across the globe. All of whom can expect to wait up to three years before they will see their knives delivered.
Fingal concluded. ‘A farm is a great place when it comes to developing businesses that not only complement each other but also add value to the food you produce every day.’