‘ON THE PIGS BACK’
Mark Winterbotham and Alan Pierce own Gold River Farm, just down from us in Aughrim. Their Organic Licence enables them to grow delicious vegetables for us. This year Mark introduced Organic Pigs. The pigs are continually given fresh pastures around The Farm; in return they have a fab life and provide a weather resistant, income for our Organic Crop Farmers. Gold River Farm has just got better!
Ed Hick is a fourth generation pork butcher. His shop, in Dun Laoghaire, has recently attained a full organic licence. His traditional pork products, including the famous Hicks sausages, cured rashers, black and white puddings are now being made for us using the Organic ingredients from Gold River Farm. Breakfast in Macreddin has just got better!
Alex Weigold has been with The Strawberry Tree for yonks. All our chefs’ ingredients are curtailed (more than in any other kitchen in Ireland) to what is organically available. He continues to astound our guests with his finished dishes. But his DNA contribution(!) when it comes to presenting original ideas for Gold River Farm Pork has not gone unnoticed. Dinner in the Strawberry Tree has just got better!
Here in the kitchens of the Strawberry Tree restaurant, we had always found it difficult to source Irish organic pork in sufficient quantities. My good friend Ed, had not yet obtained his organic licence, and couldn’t supply to us because of this. Meanwhile, a few miles down the road on Gold River Farm, Mark and Alan had been growing beautiful natural organic vegetables, fresh fruit and herbs for us since 1999. Gold River has grown massively since then, supplying their produce all over Wicklow and Dublin.
In one of those light bulb moments, we decided to combine our talents, and establish our own private piggy network. The concept was simple, to the point of blindingly obvious. Mark rears the pigs in luxurious free-range digs on the Farm, spoiling them with loads of TLC and organic goodies. Ed uses the resulting top-quality pork meat to produce spicy puddings, fat juicy sausages, and smoky rashers, as well as succulent pork fillets. These artisan foods then come back to Macreddin, for use in our Breakfasts and the Strawberry Tree, putting smiles on our customers’ faces and completing a full circle in organic production and consumption.
Back on the farm, the porkers have heaps of grassy space to amble contentedly around. They are relocated to a different area every couple of weeks. They welcome the move, trotting behind Mark as he leads them to their new quarters across the fields. The pigs are also the proud owners of little piggy houses (no, seriously), variously constructed of straw, wood and brick (okay, I made that part up.)
With each move, they root and dig their noses in, munching up any roots and creepy-crawlies they can snuffle out. This is an age-old method of rotivation. When it’s time for them to move on, they leave behind tilled, aerated soil, rich, and two very happy farmers.
In return, they are fed on the yummy organic veg. At the end of a hard day, they go to bed with full bellies; safe that no one will be huff and puff their houses down. We believe this natural, mutually beneficial relationship is a clear testament to why organic farming is better for everyone: farmers, butchers, chefs, customers, and yes, the piggies too.