|On starting a Cheese Business:
"... no, I never had a business plan, if there had been one, we'd never have done it...."
Randolph Hodgson, OBE. Founder of Neal's Yard Dairy, London
The Ferguson family have worked Gubbeen Farm for many generations now.
It is a 250 acre coastal farm in West Cork one mile outside the fishing village of Schull, the Atlantic Ocean bordering one boundary and Mount Gabriel to the North as a back drop behind the land, sheltering the pasture that has always supported the Gubbeen herd.
Tom Ferguson is the herdsman. He inherited Gubbeen in the early 70’s when he married Giana who originally came from London of an Anglo-Hungarian family. Their work at Gubbeen has involved, almost from the earliest days of meeting, a quest to produce food on the farm - food that comes directly from the land they farm and reaches customers as seasonally and as freshly as possible.
The cheeses started when their son Fingal was born, by the time their daughter Clovisse arrived Giana had moved into a small dairy alongside the house where she worked with William Ferguson, her father in law, on the earliest of the Gubbeen Cheeses.
Fingal has become a well respected smoked meat producer; he has over 50 products and a fascination that grows each year with the arts and science of charcuterie. His pigs are born at the farm, the sows having grazed the pasture all summer long and the young being born down at the farm. They are fattened-on in large, airy, straw filled pens overlooking the Atlantic with one wall open to the fresh air and the fields.
All the animals at Gubbeen are fed on GM free feed. The cattle that produce the milk for the cheese are carefully reared by Tom and Andrew Brennan. Rosie and Brennan care for the sows, whilst Giana keeps poultry in the yards around the farm. From her incubators she hatches rare breeds, Bronze turkeys and Toulouse cross geese in the spring, introducing them back to their parents who then rear them naturally around the orchard behind Gubbeen House.
Clovisse has brought home her training from her godfather, gardener Jonathan Hamel Cooke and his partner Sue Dickinson, in addition to her apprenticeship working in the fields at Riverford Farm in Devon. She is a bio-dynamic gardener, and with a terraced acre and four tunnels she supplies several local chefs and is the source of fresh salads, vegetables and fruit for her customers. Her herbs are the key flavours in Fingal's cures for his smoked meats, and in the summer - if you get down early enough - you can buy her salads at the Schull or Skibbereen Farmers’ Markets.
So, the land provides the grass for the herd at Gubbeen, their milk is made into the cheeses and the whey is fed to the pigs and other animals, the gardens add vital flavour to the cured meats and the family work the year round in their chosen life - as food makers.
'The science of craftsmanship and vernacular knowledge that derives from working with natural materials over many seasons, combined with respect for human labour which is the only way to perform tasks with the requisite care and vigilance: these too are vital features of sustainability.'
Here's a view on us from America, Andrew Zimmern made us one of his Top 5 Ireland for the Travel Channel
Please read on in our site, and hopefully the foods from this gentle and fertile corner of West Cork that the Fergusons make at Gubbeen might one day cross your path?