When Becky Gray emailed Charlie Cole to arrange an interview for her blog after seeing him on the BBC TV show Farm Fixer in 2012, she admits her motives may not have been – well, shall we say – purely journalistic?

“I did think, yeah, you were pretty cute,” she giggles, as she sits at the kitchen table beside her now-husband. Not that she did all the running, she is quick to qualify.

“I wanted to do an email interview, in fairness,” she says. “And I just happened to be in Dublin that weekend,” Charlie responds – his tone suggesting this stroke of luck may just have involved a last-minute dash down the M1. Either way…

“It was love at first sight,” confirms Becky, who welcomed the couple’s first son, Rupert, just days after our visit to Broughgammon Farm – an award-winning producer of cabrito (kid goat) meat and rose veal in Ballycastle, Co Antrim.

While the 48-acre farm has only been in the Cole family since 2002 when Charlie’s parents, Millie and Robin, decided to move back to Northern Ireland following his father’s retirement from the army, farming has always been in Charlie’s blood ... and vocabulary.

“‘Tractor’ was my first word,” he says, explaining that despite living in Saudi Arabia, Italy, Germany and England as a child, holidays were always spent with extended family on their farms.

After school, Charlie studied rural land management and spent a year’s work placement on the Abercorn Estate in Newtownstewart. Rather than return to the UK to work on a vast estate, however, he decided to try to put his training to use at home instead.

“I knew I wanted to stay in Northern Ireland, so I came back home and said: ‘OK, what can we do with what we have here?’,” he says.


Diversification ideas ranged from rearing wild boar to paintballing, before he stumbled on the solution after his mother asked for a pet goat for her birthday. It turned out to be a bigger gift than she bargained on. While researching the idea, Charlie discovered that the majority of male kid goats born to the dairy industry were being put down at birth, so he decided to trial rear the surplus male kids.

“I went and got 30, so mum’s birthday present was a bit bigger than what she expected,” he laughs.

Charlie’s original plan was to rear the goats before selling them on to a buyer that he had lined up.

However, when that deal suddenly fell through, he had no option but to think on his feet – and fast. With the Ould Lammas Fair taking place locally and his mum having previously worked as a trainee butcher, Charlie decided to use their own meat to make up goat burgers.

“We’re very good friends with one of the publicans down there and we said: ‘Look, can we try selling the burgers at the back of the pub?’,” says Charlie.

“The first day we sold nothing. That night, after a few [drinks], there were a few dares – someone stood up and came up and bought the burger, tried it, said it was the best burger he’d ever had, passed it around the pub and then the next day we sold out.”

While the story illustrates the initial reluctance around eating goat – despite the fact that it’s a staple for 75% of the world’s population – it also proves that once people tasted Broughgammon Farm’s burgers, they were hooked.

Sensing a niche, Charlie decided to put a butchery on the farm to develop a full range of products – from their bestselling Billy Burgers to goat sausages, as well as conventional-style cuts. They hit the farmers’ markets and their customers range from an 80-year-old man in the Glens of Antrim who fondly recalled eating kid goat as a child to foodies and members of ethnic communities.


The startup enterprise got a welcome boost when it featured on the BBC show Farm Fixer, which saw Charlie mentored by Nick Hewer of The Apprentice – and the arrival of Becky soon after. An art graduate and landscape artist from Co Wicklow, she was working for Dubarry while running her own country living-style blog when the couple first met, but soon decided to move to Co Antrim to join the Broughgammon Farm team.

“We had to just jump into it really to make it work because that’s the farming life, you know,” she smiles.

“Charlie and I are very similar in the way we think as well in terms of the farm’s future, but I suppose I bring in a different side, maybe the more aesthetic side and marketing side, and Charlie has got all the farming acumen and everything, so it’s worked out very well.”

Becky developed a website to tell the Broughgammon Farm story, as well as starting sales of their meat boxes online, with deliveries available nationwide thanks to a local courier – though orders have also gone to Scotland and England.

The couple now rear about 400 kid goats a year, as well as approximately 24 Holstein Friesian bull calves for rose veal.

Much of their regular trade comes from St George’s Market in Belfast and Temple Bar farmers’ market in Dublin, but they also supply the restaurant trade, cater for parties, are regulars at events like the Balmoral Show and the Ballymaloe Literary Festival and even won the best snack category in September at the British Street Food awards for their goat taco with chorizo and bacon crumb. Most recently, they have also begun to develop a cured meat range with products like pancetta and pastrami, which they describe as their “Brexit mitigation measure”.


But that’s not the only way they have diversified. Keen to make the very most of their 48 acres, the Coles have set up a small farm shop on site and regularly run courses on wild game and standard butchery, seaweed harvesting and seasonal cookery.

They are also in the process of applying for a grant to convert a barn to bring everything under one roof, as well as giving them the extra capacity to host farm tours, supper clubs and pop-up events with other local producers.

While Charlie’s mum and dad are involved in Broughgammon Farm, it’s clear that the young couple wear many hats: farmers, butchers, sales people, caterers, product developers, agri-tourism innovators – and not to mention being new parents. However, they want to develop Broughgammon Farm in the most holistic and sustainable way that they can.

“We can’t all be Donald Trump,” laughs Charlie, while Becky adds that it’s not just about making a living, but making a life. “Trying to make a good life for yourself, I think, is so important,” she says.

As for their advice to other startups or farming couples who wish to diversify, Charlie says to take it slowly.

“We started with 30 goats to see if it would work and it worked with those 30,” he says. “As you scale it up, you’ve got to bear in mind the different hurdles you’re going to meet along the way. And just take your time, don’t rush it.”

Meanwhile, Becky believes it’s important to share your story with your customers.

“People want to hear the story of how you got started, your own character – that’s what can set you apart from the competition, apart from the really big boys who, to be honest, it’s really hard to compete with anyway,” she says.

“But I think if you’re wanting to start up, know your story and don’t be afraid to tell it.” CL

Tel: 0044-7976-270-465

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