Focus Farm

Watertop is one of three focus farms available to visit under the Department of Agriculture Focus Farm Scheme. The focus for a farm visit is on farm diversification. There are 55 farms in Northern Ireland involved in the Focus Farm Scheme. The Focus Farm Scheme is administered by Ai Services, 671 Antrim Road, Newtonabbey, Co.Antrim, BT36 4RL

You can contact them through their email – focusfarms@countrysiderural.co.uk

The information below can be found on www.focusfarms.net

Patsy McBride and Watertop Farm

Background

  • Greenmount Agricultural College, two year course, (Advanced National Certificate in Agriculture).
  • Founder member and first club leader of ‘The Glens Young Farmers Club.
  • six month exchange programme to New Zealand in 1981.
  • Nuffield scholar in 1985, looking at farm diversification.
  • founder member of Glens of Antrim Rural Community Development association.
  • served four  years on the BBC Agricultural Advisory Committee.
  • served four  years on the Council for Nature Conservation and the Countryside (CNCC).
  • Founder member and presently a director in the Green Glens Marketing cooperative.
  • Host farmer for” Good Farming Practice” workshops.

Farm business interests

  • Manages 246.2ha sheep and beef cow,( hill farm).
  • Family partnership with Father, Paddy and brother, Terence.
  • Managing 600 ewes Scottish blackface, Cheviot and mules, with all replacements bred on farm.
  • 30 beef cows using  and Limousin bull, breeding own replacements. Most calves sold at 1 year old.

Diversification

  • Started Pony-Trekking in 1969(The Loughareema Trekking Centre).
  • Developed the first open farm in Ireland, in 1986 (Watertop Open Farm)
  • Now developing aspects of “Experiential Learning”.

Sustainability of the family farm

Today our approach to sustaining the farm business is to look at our perceived disadvantages and try to turn them into something positive, and to our advantage.

We are trying many different methods of supplementing farm income, from adding value to our livestock and our existing farm enterprises, to developing tourist activities and concentrating on environmental aspects of the farm business (GFP programme, ESA, CMS.). Sustainability is the key issue. ”Most of Watertop farms ideas came from visiting other people’s farms and enterprises and therefore the Mc Bride family fully subscribe to the concept of the Focus Farm programme. It wouldn’t matter whether a farmer visiting Watertop was thinking of starting a Tourist Venture, a Manufacturing Business or even a Worm Farm. The challenges and obstacles and difficulties facing any farmer thinking of ways to supplement their income, are fairly similar.

What it takes to overcome these challenges can be helped by a visit to Watertop Farm or any of the Focus Farms in the programme. Patsy Mc Brides experience and knowledge gained on his study of diversification in Europe and elsewhere, would make a visit to Watertop Farm useful for anyone considering supplementing their farm income.