Hillsborough farmer hits the small screen on Rare Breed

Hillsborough man Stephen Gibson will be giving an insight onto life on the farm when he and his family appear in the first episode of the new serioes of the hit TV show Rare Breef on UTV next Tuesday (January 11).

Hillsborough farmer Stephen Gibson and his family will appear on the UTV series Rare Breed
Hillsborough farmer Stephen Gibson and his family will appear on the UTV series Rare Breed

The hugely successful ‘Rare Breed – A Farming Year’ returns to our screens next Tuesday (January 11)at 7.30pm, for its tenth season, with 14 families from across Northern Ireland giving us an inside view of the ups and downs of their year in 2021.

The tenth year of the series features several farming families including a dairy farm in Hillsborough; a potato grower in Downpatrick; and a beef and sheep enterprise in Co. Antrim. The series follows a young shepherdess who farms on the mountains of Co.Down; a pig farmer in Limavady; and a newly-engaged couple on their farm in Co.Tyrone.

Series 10 also revisits some familiar faces to Rare Breed over previous years to catch up with the developments on their farms.

In the first episode, we meet six of the farmers. First off is 23-year-old Áine Devlin who looks after over 400 sheep on her family sheep farm in the Mournes. The family is busy herding their sheep down from the hills to check them before lambing season. They couldn’t do this job without their sheep dogs, Fly and Mist.

Áine commented “This is my favourite place in the whole world” as the sheep come down from the picturesque landscape of the Mournes. Áine also has her own pedigree Texel sheep to tend to with her boyfriend John and she admits they are both learning as they go along.

We then meet Richard Orr who runs Meadow Farm near Downpatrick, Co. Down. The family have been working the land for three generations and while the farm started with livestock, Richard now grows potatoes and cereals like oats for porridge. We follow Richard as he completes the important task of soil sampling.

Richard explains that the samples are sent for analysis so they understand what they’re working with as he notes, “The soil’s our number one asset on the farm.” The process of soil sampling is also a good chance to train up the next generation of farmer as his three-year-old son joins Richard to help. Richard explains how important it is to make the most of family time on the farm when you can.

Staying in Co. Down, near Magheralin we are reintroduced to Libby Clarke who was featured on Rare Breed in 2018.

The mum of two rears award-winning beef Shorthorn and Charolais with her daughter Lucy. While Libby finds working with the cattle rewarding, she is also a keen sales woman and remarks, “I’d sell the shirt off my back if there was money in it”. Following in Libby’s footsteps, Lucy loves working with the cattle alongside her mum, although Lucy prefers to call her mum Libs! The team get to work with the general jobs of tending to the cattle as Libby looks forward to the year ahead.

Next, it’s off to another familiar face to the series. James Alexander farms a massive enterprise cattle and sheep with his family near Randalstown, Antrim. In this episode we follow James’s inaugural New Year’s sale which conflicts with an even more important date in James’s calendar, his wedding anniversary. As with many sales across the country the majority of the trading must happen online, and so James has to make the most of online videos. For big events like these James puts pressure on himself for everything to be as good as it can be as he comments, “You keep on eating at yourself to try and get those wee things done better.” However, it is a successful sale and after two hours, James sells 100 cattle.

We find ourselves in Fivemiletown, Co. Tyrone with Chris Johnston and his fiancé Kendall Glenn. The couple is dealing with the bitterly cold winter weather all in the midst of calving season. We see Chris dealing with a calf that has a big tongue and is struggling to feed, while Kendall completes routine jobs around the farm. Kendall and Chris also have to balance the farm work with planning for a wedding which Kendall explains is not easy in the middle of a pandemic.

Our last stop is back in County Down at Hollowbridge Farm. Stephen Gibson runs the dairy farm and ice cream business in Hillsborough with his parents, wife Amanda, and two kids. Stephen is in the middle of breeding season while he also has bathe the cows’ hooves. They have moved to using all artificial insemination on the farm as Stephen explains it is just safer especially with young kids around. We also see Stephen out on the farm with his two children, Stuart and Katelyn who keep a watchful eye as Stephen remarks, “Always good to have a supervisor”.

Later in the series viewers will visit tree farmer Tony Johnston, who runs NI Farm Forestry, just outside of Dundonald. Viewers will recognise him from a previous series of Rare Breed.

NI Farm Forestry are the largest growers and retailers of Christmas trees in Northern Ireland and they produce over 8000 Christmas trees every year. Tony is also contracted to plant woodland across the country. It’s a family business with Tony’s wife and two children all working together to get our trees ready for Christmas!

UTV’s Mark McFadden once again narrates the series. Sponsored by Moy Park, Rare Breed – A Farming Year starts on Tuesday January 11 at 7.30pm on UTV.