Making a meal out of a lifestyle
@smallholdersUK UK Smallholders are profiled week by week on twitter @SmallholdersUK
This month: Nikki Brown in Argyll, who lives with husband Fraser, daughter Elise (two- and- a-half), six dogs (two labs and four collies), 500 sheep and 10 chickens
We are fourth generation hill farmers originating from Surrey and Hampshire. We took over Shellfield Farm from Fraser’s uncle in 2012. We have a spectacular view from the top of our hill — you can see as far as Islay and Campbeltown. I spend some time off farm doing a bit of freelance work for a community interest company set up to try and get Superfast Broadband into certain areas of Cowal and Bute.
We experimented with sheep breeds when we first moved here and quickly realised that the optimum breed for these hills is the native Blackface. We tup with a Swaledale to get hybrid vigour, length and height.
Joe is our semi-retired sheepdog, recently upgraded to yard dog. He is only eight, but the hills are so hard on the dogs that they tend to retire early. A good hill dog is hard to come by — they need extra intuition and independence to herd the sheep across tough terrain.
We sold our herd of Simmental/ Luing cross cattle last year as they weren’t proving viable to keep. I miss seeing them chilling on the shore, but I don’t miss taking the calves away from their mothers — that was never fun.
We do all sorts of outdoor catering events, selling our meat, including saltmarsh lamb burgers, slow cooked lamb, home-made pies and haggis. We’re busy preparing for our next big catering event, the Islay Whisky Festival, where we will be serving whisky lovers with lamb legs slow cooked in our hog roast machine.
We’ve just had news from the LEADER programme that after an 18-month application process we can start building our new commercial kitchen and butchery unit. We will be making ready meals, charcuterie, pies and food for festivals and catering gigs. We’re very excited.
Nikki Brown is a hill farmer