GILFORD-BASED farmer Harry McGaffin and his wife Mary have just completed a major investment programme at their Blackberry Hill Farm to provide the public with “a farm experience plus”.
The enterprising husband and wife team’s love of animals has led to a new Open Farm business venture that is designed to provide visitors with a boutique experience that is informative, private, relaxing and more than a little bit different.
“As a farmer I had been participating in the Bank of Ireland Open Farm initiative for a number of years and always enjoyed the experience,” explained Harry.
“I got great pleasure from seeing the reaction of both adults and children when they visited Blackberry Hill Farm and began to think that the Open Farm experience was something that could be elaborated on in terms of diversification.”
Fittingly their new business venture, which is due to open to the public in September, was showcased in this year’s Bank of Ireland Virtual Open Farm Weekend, which ran from Friday, July 30, until Sunday, August 1.
The Blackberry Hill Farm experience has been set up as a tour which is designed to last just over an hour.
Existing outbuildings have been renovated, a new courtyard has been created along with animal housing units and a piece of wasteland has been converted into an entrance walkway that leads into the courtyard and the venture showpiece.
“The entrance walkway has been designed to heighten the anticipation, especially for children,” explained Mary McGaffin.
“We have wildlife in model form positioned along the route and the idea will be for the children to spot and identify as many different species as they can.”
Upon reaching the courtyard visitors will be met by Cahir and Mehaul, rescue donkeys from County Kerry, along with Dolly the Cob and a team of Alpacas.
The courtyard leads to the ‘fluffy area’ which contains everything from rabbits, guinea pigs and chinchillas to chicks, ducks and bantams.
The tour leads on to more traditional farm animals such as goats, piglets and lambs (when available in season).
There’s also an aviary section and a reptile house containing everything from tortoises and snakes to lizards.
“We intend to be very much ‘hands-on’ with visitors getting up close, interacting and experiencing a range of animals on their terms,” said Mary.
“There will be mini leading opportunities with alpacas, goats, lambs and at times, calves, or even mucking in to groom a pony.”
In the surrounding fields visitors will be able to see the farm’s European Angus beef cattle, alpacas and Anglo Nubian goats.
There’s also a garden area on the farm which features both flowers and vegetables.
“A lot of time and effort has gone into creating this new venture and we are now looking forward to welcoming visitors to the farm,” said Mary.
n A visit to Blackberry Hill Farm, which is located at 47A Ballymacanallen Road, Gilford, Craigavon, BT63 6AE, will be strictly by appointment only. (See Facebook page).
Harry and Mary McGaffin enjoy sharing behind the scenes happenings on their social media pages and also intend to set up a booking system online, which is currently under construction.