Nestled in the countryside of Agohill, Co Antrim lies Hillstown Farm Shop, run by the Logan family. Known to locals as a culinary gem, it is the work of four generations.

Nigel Logan, farmer and owner, says the family initially opened the farm shop as a form of diversification in 2005.

Now they have an on-site premier butchery and café, and the team at Hillstown have an extensive expertise in their craft, employing traditional techniques and ageing meats to perfection.

“The aftermath of the BSE crisis and bad beef prices meant we had to get our thinking caps on and look at a new way to market our product,” says Nigel.

“Our plan was to have an on-site area where my brother Ollie, who is a butcher by trade, could sell our meat and eggs.

“Business then began to pick up as interest for the butchery grew, and a loyal customer base was developed.”

Branching out

It wasn’t long before the pair began selling other produce in the shop including fruit, vegetables, cheese, and a range of other artisanal products.

“A few farmers in the area reached out to us to sell their fruit and veg and we also contacted other producers who we knew from the local farmers markets,” says Nigel.

As the shop’s popularity grew, so did the interest in having an on-site farm-to-table experience resulting in the opening of their café.

“Whether you pop in for breakfast or lunch, all our dishes are made with our own meat and local produce,” says Nigel.

“The menu is developed around seasonality and what is available in our butchery at the time.”

Master Butchery

Both Nigel and Ollie agree that the busiest part of their shop is their butchery department, which is all supplied from their 150-acre farm.

“We do our own beef, rare breed pigs, free range chickens, eggs and grass-fed lamb,” says Ollie. “Nigel and our father do the farming and I look after the butchery.”

For beef, Ollie focuses on Angus and Shorthorn cattle as he says these breeds are renowned for producing succulent marbled beef.

“We don’t cut corners in the ageing process and our beef is also dry-aged for four to five weeks, so every bite has a great balance of taste and tenderness,” says Ollie.

Hillstown Farm Shop.

“We are a traditional butcher on our side, boning everything ourselves, which allows for a sense of trust between us and our customers.”

Ollie says he is grateful for this loyalty, and always values the chats over the counter, listening to what his customers want.

“When it comes to our lamb, we know that they favour leaner cuts over excessive fat and it’s all about savouring the essence of flavour.

“Our pork sausages are a favourite too and have won at the Northern Irish Championships, placing first, five years in a row.”

Online Orders

Another part of the farm shop’s business is their home delivery option, which took off right before the pandemic.

“Thankfully we had already put in the ground work a year before, so when COVID-19 hit, orders started to kick off,” says Nigel.

“The online shop stocks everything from our butchery, fruit, veg and all of our other artisanal products.”

Nigel Logan with his cattle. \Peter Houston

“We deliver across the UK and Ireland, and do around 50% of our business now online,” he adds.

“It really gave us a boost, it’s nearly like a second shop in some sense, which led us to employing more staff for the butchery.”

Growing awareness

However, the Logan family have faced a number of challenges over the years and are currently finding it difficult to compete with supermarket meat prices.

“Everything is going up and nothing seems to be going down; it’s hard as our profit margins are lower than ever,” says Nigel. He adds that regardless of rising supermarket competition, he does see a growing movement in his area of people checking where their meat is coming from.

“More young people, in particular, seem to be asking questions,” he says.

“Our customers like the fact that our produce is all natural with no additives. As a result, our sausages only last two to three days but that is the natural cycle.”

Nigel explains they are constantly finding new ways to further diversify their farm.

“Last year, we trialled a sunflower field and a wildflower field, which were a big hit in August.

“We had a pumpkin patch for the first time last year and if the weather improves, we will hopefully get planting and do it all again.”

Both Nigel and Ollie are excited for the future, with plans to expand their business into a garden centre, whilst upholding their strict standards and continued passion for quality food.

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