A glimpse of life on the farm from the luxury of your own living room

Open Farm Weekend is ten years old this year.

For the last decade the Ulster Farmer’s Union initiative has sought to reconnect consumers with farms and farm producers.

It’s a showcase for the excellent work farmers do in caring for their local environment. In the past you could visit a farm and see cows being milked, feed kid goats, see how oats are grown, watch apples being pressed for cider and many other activities. Over the weekend you would have chosen one or maybe two farms to visit. In 2019 over 20,000 people, mainly from an urban/non agri background, visited various farms. This year, like 2020, you can visit them all from the comfort of your own home. You will be able to connect with nearly 30 farms via Open Farm Weekend’s social media channels and website. Go to www.openfarmweekend.com.

Live activities will include sheep dog trials, wool spinning, tag rugby and cooking demonstrations. Today and tomorrow I’ll be cooking at Glenarm Redspark Farm, run by the Matthews family who have been farming on the Glens of Antrim hills since 1688. Eamonn Matthews is the present incumbent of the land and is following the family tradition in producing excellent lamb. The recipes I’ll be cooking are on the Open Farm Weekend website – a live cookalong on Saturday and on Sunday there’ll be a Sunday roast. As well as using the sweet, succulent lamb from the farm, there’ll be vegetables from Millbank Farm in Killinchy, beer from Hillstown Farm in Ahoghill, milk from Chestnutt’s Farm in Portrush, rapeseed oil from Broighter Gold in Limavady, bacon from Seaview Farm in Portrush, Jamisons potatoes from Armoy. All these farms are featured on the virtual Open Farm Week programme.

The recipes this week showcase ingredients from some of the other farms in Open Farm Weekend. In Italy they use milk as a braising liquor for pork. The lactic acid in the milk helps to tenderise the meat as well as giving you the base for a delicious sauce. It’s served with buttered leeks and cider fondant potatoes. The potatoes are cooked in butter and cider. You end up with golden on the outside, fluffy in the middle spuds with a hint of apples – perfect to serve with the pork.

Damien and Jackie Tumelty raise Dexter cows at their farm near Downpatrick. This small, rarebreed cow has naturally marbled beef and it’s dry aged for 30-35 days to intensify the flavour. You’ll be able to see them and their cows online this weekend. Dexter rump gets a paste of miso and sugar, making for an even more caramelised finish when cooked. It’s accompanied by root vegetable cakes using new season carrots and beetroots and oats. They’re topped with a horseradish cream. A riff on meat and two veg.

The weather forecast isn’t great so crank up the computer, get the kettle on, the biscuits out and enjoy life on the farm from the luxury of your living room.

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