The future of farming
Tillage farming has been undergoing a transformation for some time. Profit margins have tightened and in many cases disappeared, regulation has increased and even once valuable crops are now being sold as commodities.
At Ballykilcavan, we will always stay farming. It's what we've done for 380 years and it is still the best way of maintaining the landscape. We want to make agriculture more sustainable, so we are actively improving soil fertility and biology which enables us to reduce our bagged fertiliser and chemical inputs. We are also preserving and upgrading our 19th century hedgerow network.
At the same time, we realise that farming alone will no longer generate enough income to support our family and to maintain the house and farm buildings in good order. With that in mind, we have decided to branch out into some new projects that will preserve the viability of the farm and generate employment and income for the local area.
With its maritime climate, Ireland produces some of the best malting barley in the world, and it makes up about 60% of all the grain we produce. Until now, the brewing portion of this barley has all been sold as a commodity to end up in big brand beers.
We decided that we wanted to give people a taste of Ballykilcavan by brewing our own beers that are made from our own barley. 100% of the malt in every beer is made from barley grown on the farm. The brewery will be installed in the 18th century farmyard and will use spring water drawn from a well in the yard. Alongside showcasing our ingredients, the brewery will eventually create between 5 and 10 local jobs.
David has spent 10 years homebrewing and 2 years of training to become an IBD certified brewer and maltster. The beers will be on sale in June 2017, and you can read more about the brewery on the Ballykilcavan Brewery website.
The wider project
Once the brewery is up and running fully, we are going to open it as a tourist destination to highlight the brewing process and to demonstrate how we make our own ingredients. The next stage will be to restore the rest of the yard as an artisan food hub to give small local producers a central location to sell their breads, coffee, cheeses and meats. The yard is a protected structure, so all work will be carried out sympathetically and in full consultation with the planning authorities.
We are in the early stages of designing a wider tourist attraction that will take in all the features that make Ballykilcavan so special. The brewery yard is close to a large area of native woodland and to the old walled garden where William Robinson learnt his trade. The outline of the garden, including the old brick walls of the greenhouses, is still in place, and most importantly the wall itself is still fully standing.
Having survived in the family for so long, our aim is to create a viable future for Ballykilcavan.