THE hugely successful ‘Rare Breed – A Farming Year’ returns to our screens next Tuesday, January 11, at 7.30pm, for its 10th season, with 14 families from across Northern Ireland giving us an inside view of the ups and downs of their year in 2021.
Rare Breed takes viewers into the heart of the farming world, giving a unique insight into one of Northern Ireland’s largest and oldest industries.
The 10th year of the series features several farming families, including a dairy farm in Hillsborough; a potato grower in Downpatrick; and a beef and sheep enterprise in County Antrim.
The series follows a young shepherdess who farms on the mountains of County Down; a pig farmer in Limavady; and a newly-engaged couple on their farm in County Tyrone.
Series 10 also revisits some familiar faces to Rare Breed over previous years to catch up with the developments on their farms.
In the first episode, we meet six of the farmers. First off is 23-year-old Áine Devlin, who looks after more than 400 sheep on her family farm in the Mournes. The family is busy herding their sheep down from the hills to check them before lambing season. They couldn’t do this job without their sheep dogs, Fly and Mist.
Áine comments: “This is my favourite place in the whole world,” as the sheep come down from the picturesque landscape of the Mournes.
Áine also has her own pedigree Texel sheep to tend to with her boyfriend John and she admits they are both learning as they go along.
We then meet Richard Orr, who runs Meadow Farm near Downpatrick, County Down. The family have been working the land for three generations and while the farm started with livestock, Richard now grows potatoes and cereals like oats for porridge.
We follow Richard as he completes the important task of soil sampling. He explains that the samples are sent for analysis so they understand what they’re working with as he notes: “The soil’s our number one asset on the farm.”
The process of soil sampling is also a good chance to train up the next generation of farmer as his three-year-old son joins him to help. Richard explains how important it is to make the most of family time on the farm when you can.
Staying in County Down, near Magheralin, we are reintroduced to Libby Clarke, who was featured on Rare Breed in 2018. The mum of two rears award-winning beef Shorthorn and Charolais with her daughter Lucy.
While Libby finds working with the cattle rewarding, she is also a keen sales woman and remarks: “I’d sell the shirt off my back if there was money in it”. Following in Libby’s footsteps, Lucy loves working with the cattle alongside her mum, although Lucy prefers to call her mum Libs! The team get to work with the general jobs of tending to the cattle as Libby looks forward to the year ahead.
Next, it’s off to another familiar face to the series. James Alexander farms a massive enterprise of cattle and sheep with his family near Randalstown, Antrim. In this episode we follow James’ inaugural New Year’s sale, which conflicts with an even more important date in James’ calendar – his wedding anniversary.
As with many sales across the country, the majority of the trading must happen online, and so James has to make the most of online videos. For big events like these James puts pressure on himself for everything to be as good as it can be as he comments: “You keep on eating at yourself to try and get those wee things done better.” However, it is a successful sale and after two hours James sells 100 cattle.
We find ourselves in Fivemiletown, County Tyrone, with Chris Johnston and his fiancé Kendall Glenn. The couple is dealing with the bitterly cold winter weather all in the midst of calving season. We see Chris dealing with a calf that has a big tongue and is struggling to feed, while Kendall completes routine jobs around the farm.
Kendall and Chris also have to balance the farm work with planning for a wedding which Kendall explains is not easy in the middle of a pandemic.
Our last stop is back in County Down at Hollowbridge Farm. Stephen Gibson runs the dairy farm and ice cream business in Hillsborough with his parents, wife Amanda, and two kids.
Stephen is in the middle of breeding season while he also has to bathe the cows’ hooves. They have moved to using all artificial insemination on the farm as Stephen explains it is just safer, especially with young kids around.
We also see Stephen out on the farm with his two children, Stuart and Katelyn, who keep a watchful eye as Stephen remarks: “Always good to have a supervisor”.
Later in the series we meet pig farmer Alastair Crown, who runs Corndale Farm in Limavady, County Londonderry. Not from a farming background, in 2012 Alastair moved from a career in IT and bought his first pigs. Whilst everyday has been a school day for Alastair, the farm has continued to grow, and he now makes a range of charcuterie products in his own factory, which he sells across the country.
We are introduced to Rachael and Mervyn Garrett, who run Loughside Farm in Ballycarry, County Antrim. The pair rear quality Dexter cattle which have been successful in the show circuit and they also have around 80 crossbred ewes.
While Mervyn prefers working with the sheep, Rachael is all about the cattle. Rachael and Mervyn both have to balance farming with full time jobs and their young daughter Sommer.
In Comber, County Down, we meet plant propagator Trevor Gabbie, who is the leading supplier of young plants to growers across the island of Ireland. Trevor produces more than 50 million seedlings a year and is as passionate about his plants as any farmer is about their livestock.
Throughout the series we catch up with some familiar faces who have featured on previous series of Rare Breed, including the McKeevers, who are apple growers near Portadown, County Armagh. Pat and Peter McKeever run Long Meadow Farm where they farm around 80 acres of orchard. They also now produce their own apple juice, cider, and apple cider vinegar.
We revisit farmer and auctioneer Richard Beattie, who farms a variety of animals on his farm in Gortin, County Tyrone. Never shy of a challenge, recently Richard introduced deer into his farm to rear for venison. This year he also fulfilled his boyhood dream of owning Glenpark Estate, which he has turned into an attractive holiday park and wedding venue.
Potato farmer Jamie Rankin is also featured in this series. Jamie is a third-generation farmer who farms several hundred acres of land both sides of the border in counties Derry and Donegal. He grows premium potatoes for supermarkets, restaurants, and hotels.
Just outside of Dundonald, County Down, tree farmer Tony Johnston runs NI Farm Forestry. He also took part in a previous series of Rare Breed. They are the largest growers and retailers of Christmas trees in Northern Ireland and they produce more than 8,000 Christmas trees every year. Tony is also contracted to plant woodland across the country. It’s a family business with Tony’s wife and two children all working together to get the trees ready for Christmas!
Finally, we’ll meet the Elliotts, who are turkey farmers based on the shores of Strangford Lough near Portaferry, County Down. The family has reared free range poultry on Marlfield Farm for the past 40 years. At the helm of the farm is Olive Elliott, who studied at Loughry and runs the farm with the help of her two sons Mark and David.
Tony Curry, Programmes Editor at UTV, said: “Rare Breed – A Farming Year” is a firm favourite amongst UTV viewers. The 12 episodes take us through the year, and we see how the families continue to carry on despite the continuing challenges of the pandemic.
“The series is a fantastic mix of the traditional with the new. Farming is a hi-tech, highly diversified business nowadays and the families’ activities this year are a true reflection of that.”
The series is produced for UTV by Belfast’s Strident Media.
Producer Cara Dinsmore said: “I’ve loved filming every minute of this series. The wide range of families and farming practises we feature throughout the series all have a common theme – passion, commitment and dedication for what they do.”
n UTV’s Mark McFadden once again narrates the series. Sponsored by Moy Park, ‘Rare Breed’ – A Farming Year starts on Tuesday, January 11 at 7.30pm on UTV.
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