Amanda Hanna and her husband Arthur farm on a 200-year-old dairy farm with 150 grass-fed dairy cows on the north coast of Antrim. Amanda, who decided to stay at home after their third child, started making jams, preserves, and chutneys seven years ago, calling them Jam at the Doorstep. They were initially sold at an honesty box at the back door, but as demand grew, they opened a small farm shop in November 2020. Work is ongoing on a new farm shop which they hope to open later in the year. Amanda is also passionate about her puddings, with her Christmas pudding and Sticky Toffee pudding both winning stars at the Great Taste Awards. Amanda still helps Arthur milk the cows twice a day, but the orders and events make for a nice variety in her life.
Amanda recently joined forces with her friend Wendy Dempster, who owns a street food truck called The Lamb Van. Wendy and her husband, Alan, run a 50-acre sheep farm, and Wendy uses their Farm Quality Assured, grass-fed lamb in street food dishes like lamb sausage rolls and also sells fresh meat boxes. Wendy and Amanda are part of a group called The Farm Foodies, which aims to bring the flavours of Co. Antrim to locals and neighbours through products, workshops, and food experiences. The group is open to new local food growers and makers joining them, and they are committed to slow food.
Glen Black from Peggy’s Family Farm near Tandragee in Armagh also makes jams and chutneys as a side hustle. The family farm is still a working dairy farm, but Glen has gone part-time to cope with demand. The newest addition to the farm outbuildings is the “heshed” or jam kitchen. Glen used to make jams in his home kitchen, but this new space was badly needed. Glen grows some vegetables in polytunnels and a glasshouse such as heritage tomatoes, pumpkins, onions, peppers, chard, garlic, sweet potatoes, and chillies. Leftover produce is sold in seasonal vegetable boxes, which is a reversal of how it all started. The preserves were made with the glut to his granny’s recipes, but fast forward a few years, and the original glasshouse has been joined by two polytunnels where chillies and crops needing more heat are grown. Glen is enjoying creating new recipes with things that have never been grown on the farm before.
These farmers are part of a growing trend of diversification in the agricultural industry. Many farmers are looking for alternative ways to supplement their income, and making jams and chutneys is a popular option. With the rise of the farm-to-table movement, consumers are increasingly interested in buying locally sourced and produced food. These farmers are meeting that demand, providing high-quality products made from ingredients grown on their own farms. By joining forces with other farmers and food producers, they are creating a sense of community and helping to support the agri-food community.