Posts Tagged ‘local food hero’

To introduce you to my next Local Food Hero I had to be careful to make sure it was a Tipperary based hero!  Trust me living in the country, county borders are of grave significance – especially at this time of year when we are in the thick of the All Ireland Hurling and Football finals.  I would surely run the risk of excommunication if I did not introduce you to a Tipperary Food Hero.

Michael Seymour of Sheepwalk Farm was probably one of the first local producers we met when we moved here 10 years ago.  Michael sells organic beef and lamb at Nenagh Market and directly to customers.

The first thing that strikes you when you arrive at Michael and Olive Seymour’s farm is the fact that it right in the centre of town.  Literally – right smack bang in the middle of Borrisokane.  Walk less than 100 yards and you are on Main Street!

Sheepwalk Farm

Sheepwalk Farm

I spent a couple of hours with Michael recently, and he explained to me that originally (and when he was growing up) the farm house was on Main Street!  A number of years back he sold the house on Main Street and built a more modern home for his own family just behind  the original house.  The farmland still runs from the back of Main Street down to the river and beyond, which as Michael said “makes life very easy, if you’re out fencing and realise you’ve run out of nails – you just have to walk a few hundred yards to get some more”.  So true!  We’ve been there ourselves when it has meant a 10 mile round trip into town!

Slevin's Callow

Slevin’s Callow

Walking the farm is almost like a ‘who’s who’ history of Borrisokane.  I loved listening to Michael give me the names of the different fields – there’s Slevin’s Callow, Gannon’s Callow, Mikey’s field and oh, and this one is ‘our’ field!   That’s the Ballyfinboy River over there…. and there’s the Millrace that was constructed in the late 1800’s….. we built this bridge last year, it makes it much easier to move the lambs and sheep.

Michael’s great-grandfather (who originally came from our  own neighbourhood village, Lorrha) bought the farm on his return for America in the 1800’s.  It is so unusual to hear of people returning, but he did and the land has been farmed in a traditional way by Michael and his ancestors, ever since.

The farm has been fully organic since 1999, Michael explained that he didn’t like what he was seeing with the sprays and chemicals that were being used, and felt it just couldn’t be good for either the land or humanity.  He has often been asked why he doesn’t have a denser stocking level, but he works with nature and knows what his farm will sustain.  As part of the farm is ‘callow’ land it is not suitable to be used in certain weather.  Michael has 20 suckler cows, 80 ewes and their respective offsprings on his 130 acres.

With endless patience, Michael explained how his rotational system works.  Lambs are grazed from March to July on same fields  but from then on they graze on different fields, where lambs have not grazed before.  As lambs graze fields the worm population grows but moving to fields not grazed previously by lambs should be clean grazing, that’s usually after grass.

The sheep on Sheepwalk Farm

The sheep on Sheepwalk Farm

The cattle are generally moved indoors onto straw bedding by mid-November where they are fed farm cut silage.  The sheep stay out most of the year  only being brought indoors for lambing.   However, their grazing is supplemented with organic nuts and silage over the winter.

Fields are cut and grazed on alternate years, using a rotation system like this helps to naturally build up the soil fertility which in turn contributes to the preservation of the traditional grasses, clovers and herbs.

As we walked and chatted, I was struck by the array of gorgeous sloes, blackberries, crab apples and haws in the hedges.  There were tons of mushrooms and Michael said there are lots of damsons in the hedgerows on the farm too.

I asked about challenges, like all other farmers, Michael said buying in feed and fodder this past year was extremely costly.  He balked when he totted up the total!!!  However, when I asked would he have chosen another life other than farming – his answer was a very definite No!

We also chatted about ‘social media’.  I know Michael uses Twitter.  Why?  Well, as Michael said, you have to know about these things – everyone else is at it so you need to keep abreast.

I asked if he thought people’s shopping had changed in recent times?  No, was Michael’s answer, he felt the shopping pattern changed seasonally….. more burgers and chops in the summer, more traditionally roasts and stews in the winter…. but business is generally remaining the same.

Michael and his delicious organic lamb and beef can be found at Nenagh Market in Quintin’s Way, Nenagh on Friday afternoons and Saturdays 10 – 3 pm, or just give him a call to arrange delivery.

We came home from our visit to Sheepwalk Farm with some lamb and beef…. we’ve had the roast lamb – it is delicious…. the beef is being saved for a special occasion.

Contact details:

Seymour Organics,  Sheepwalk Farm, Borrisokane, Co. Tipperary.

Tel:   Michael on 086 400 0680

web:  www.sheepwalkfarm.com

email: seymourorganic@gmail.com

Twitter: @SeymourOrganic

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Bo Bristle – a new star is born

Sitting over dinner one evening recently it struck me just how many local food producers we have on our doorstep here in the Midlands.  Within a couple of minutes of having the thought, I had 15 names scribbled on a piece of paper – all within a 10/20 mile radius of Redwood.

As the thought developed, I decided it was time to share the stories of some of these local food heroes with you.  Some only sell locally, some sell nationally, others have even gone international, but one thing they all have in common is a passion and enthusiasm for what it is they do.

Over the coming months, I hope to introduce you to a diverse range of products, but let’s kick off with a beer brewer from Banagher (is that alliteration?).

Andrew Horn moved from the UK to Ireland in 2009, just as our now famous recession was starting.  Andrew graduated with an Manufacturing Engineering degree but his career up to 2009 had been in the IT sector.

On arriving in Ireland, Andrew found it difficult to gain employment in the IT sector so a career change was considered.

He missed the variety of ales and beers from home.  Andrew always had a passion and obsession for quailty beer – and was known to brew beer for fellow stduents while at university 🙂

Andrew did his research….. did you know?

Craft beers are the most exciting and fastest growing segment of the beer business worldwide.  In a slow economy, craft beer is outperforming all other beer categories.  In particular, the US and UK have witnessed double digit growth for consecutive years and the trend is being followed in Ireland. 

It was time for Andrew and his business partner, Morgan Smyth, to think about developing this idea.  They approached Offaly County Enterprise Board for a grant and from there there was no turning back.

We met Andrew for the first time a couple of months back, and since then have grown to really, really like his Amber Ale.  We have introduced friends – Mona and Ron – to his beers and they too have been impressed to the extent that they’ve introduced it to their friends 🙂

He is doing good things with his all natural beers which are brewed just up the road from us in Banagher, Co. Offaly.

Bo Bristle Amber Ale

Bo Bristle Amber Ale

What are your main business areas? 

We produce a lot of draught beer under contract for Carrig Craft Brewing Limited  – Carrig lager 4.3% abv and Rowers Red Ale 4.3% abv.  We produce all the beer using our own special recipes and Carrig distribute the beer under their name.

The two beers are sold in many pubs around the country, however the majority of the customers are located in Dublin.

In the last 12 months we have started to produce beer under our own brand name ‘Bo Bristle’.  We produce a range of Irish Craft Beers for draught & bottle sale. So far we have two craft beers rolled out; Bo Bristle IPA (draught) and Bo Bristle Amber Ale (bottle).

Tell me about the name ‘Bo Bristle’?

The name Bo Bristle came from Celtic legend where great importance is attached to the bristles of the boar. They were the distinguishing characteristic of the animal and symbolic of its strength.

Boar hunting features in several stories of Celtic and Irish mythology and one such story is how ‘Fionn Mac Cumhaill’ lured his rival ‘Diarmuid Ua Duibhne’ to his death; gored by the powerful bristle of the boar.

Our beers are likewise known for their strength, flavour and character.

What makes Bo Bristle different to other beers/ales? 

Bo Bristle beers are brewed in small batches using traditional brewing methods. They are produced from 100% natural ingredients and are completely chemical free which differentiates us from the majority of mass produced beers on the market today. In addition, Bo Bristle beers are exciting, full of flavour and character.

We are able to produce small batches of various styles of beer for profit.  Large breweries  are unable to achieve the same diversity and still turn a profit.

We have invested in the development of a strong and vibrant brand which, we believe, will substantially assist in the success of future marketing campaigns and sales growth.

Who do you supply to? Mainly local shops/pubs or is it all on site? 

The majority of our sales are draught beer, see list of customers on www.bobristle.com & www.carrigcraftbrewing.com

We’re only just getting started with the bottles but we hope to expand our sales in the coming weeks/months.

What has been your biggest challenge to date?

The first year was very challenging, we faced many hurdles with planning permission for the brewery and also the application to become a bonded warehouse. These two particular problems meant that even after building the brewery we were unable to legally sell any product for the first 12 months.

What is the next challenge? New range, location change etc… 

Fortunately we’re now in a position of running the brewery at full capacity, so the next challenge will be to try and expand the production. The long term plan is to build a much bigger plant.  We will also be increasing our range at the same time.

How important is social media to your organisation?

Social media is very important to small companies such ourselves to help with much needed marketing opportunities at minimal/zero cost.

Can people come visit your plant?

Not at the moment I’m afraid, however when we expand into our new brewery then we’ll be encouraging visitors for sure.

Don't Mess with the Boar - Photo property of Bo Bristle

Don’t Mess with the Boar – Photo property of Bo Bristle

As the legend on the Bo Bristle bottle  says ‘Don’t mess with the boar’….. and this is certainly no beer to mess with.   It is really good and goes terrifically well with pork 🙂

We’d recommend going that bit out of your way to get your hands on a couple of bottles.

Contact details:

Bo Bristle, Banagher, Co. Offaly.

Tel:   Andrew on 086 125 0283

web:  www.bobristle.com

email: info@bobristle.com

Twitter: @BoBristle


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