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‘Ireland is home to five times as many cattle as humans, and wonderful natural pastures, rich in herbs and the greenest of grass, benefits from gentle rain and a mild climate, all factors that combine to create a milk of distinction…’ 

Clarissa Hyman - Food Writer



Gubbeen Farm by Giana Ferguson

History and Background of Gubbeen

Our family have lived at Gubbeen for six generations, always as dairy farmers. Tom and I first began making cheese here in the 1970s.

Tom witnessed rural electrification. His father, William, harvested by horse and worked with his neighbours threshing and milling. William's father, Thomas, worked Gubbeen and his father before him created an added value to the milk by introducing milk separators to the area – this gave them cream for the butter making industry and skimmed milk for feeding the calves.

To this day value added food production has been the key component of the farming methods at Gubbeen.


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Pigs, poultry and geese have always been part of farm yard life at Gubbeen – part of our diversity and our food chain - both for our family and our livelihood.

The Atlantic Ocean is our western boundary; the Fastnet lighthouse blinks through our windows at night.

This makes us the most south-westerly cheese dairy in Ireland and so we are blessed with early grass and clean air.

Although West Cork is not the centre of milk production in Ireland, it's beautiful landscape does bring us many tourists. The farming at Gubbeen has evolved into food production for both our neighbours and our visitors.

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'A slice of good cheese is never just a thing to eat.  It is usually also a slice of local history, agriculture, politics and ecclesiastical knowledge...'  

Patrick Rance - The French Cheese Book




 




Cheesemaking at Gubbeen – the Beginnings

 

In the 1970s when we first started to make cheese, the recipes were basic. I learnt these recipes in Spain on my father's little farm where we had a goat herd that grazed his lemon and almond orchards.

At this time in Ireland there were possibly only three other small farms making the earliest of the artisan cheeses. The idea we all shared was to produce small quantities of good quality cheese from traditional methods – on our own land and using our own milk.

This is not to say the Irish cheese industry wasn't thriving, but only as an industrial model, producing mostly Cheddar and Caerphilly – the food that armies marched on. Our offerings, later labelled as the new modern Irish food culture, had not been recognised yet!

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In the 1970s artisan produced foods in Ireland were not seen as a workable proposition. What followed for us were challenging times - long seven day weeks building our herd and dairy, investment, understanding regulations, and most importantly perfecting a consistent and delicious cheese. It was not until 1989, when we first won a silver medal at the R.D.S. in Dublin, that we believed we truly had a chance to make our living as cheesemakers.


‘.....eating is an agricultural act.’

Wendell Berry - American philosopher and farmer


The Present Day – the Modern Dairy at Gubbeen

 

Today the Gubbeen dairy stands in the yard where Tom's forefathers once milked their herds. Our herd is a true “cheesemaker's herd”, developed over thirty years by Tom's instinct and understanding of what it takes to bring the best quality milk to our vats. Our milk always brings with it an authentic flavour of our pastures. The “wash-rind” process we use is probably the closest reflection in cheesemaking of the environment in which it is produced - not only in the body of the cheese but in the rind which is alive and grown on our cheeses over several weeks -  a direct result of daily washing and the growth of our own microbacterium Gubbeenense. A 2001 study by Dr. Tim Coogan and Noel Brennan published in the International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology, identified a pinkish-white velvet bloom organism native to our pastures and named it microbacterium Gubbeenense after our dairy. A significant proof of 'Terroire'!

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Our cycle here is simple: The local climate uniquely affects our land; this in turn provides the grass our herd graze on. Their milk produces our cheeses. The by-product of cheese, whey, feeds our pigs who along with the herbs grown at Gubbeen Greens are the key to the charcuteries produced at the Smokehouse.

All these wonderful foods and vegetables arrive on our table, travel to the farmer's markets and via our supply chain finally arrive with you, our customers. A story that has gone on for generations... farm


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