Straid’s green tourist trap

Tom Gilbert, owner of Ballylagan Organic Farm. INCT 45-495-RM
Tom Gilbert, owner of Ballylagan Organic Farm. INCT 45-495-RM
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A STRAID couple are aiming to make their organic farm Co Antrim’s must-visit green tourism destination.

Despite the tough economic climate, Tom and Patricia Gilbert have invested £500,000 at Ballylagan Organic Farm, recently opening a new tea room and completing an impressive four-bedroom guesthouse development at the site.

They have also started generating their own electricity to power the farm shop, tea room and guesthouse with the completion of an innovative hydro-electric power project. And they’re continuing to add to the facilities on-site with the creation of a 1km farm and woodland walk and the extension of the shop to provide a new butchery section, both of which should be ready to open next year.

Already two new jobs have been created in the tea room, and Tom hopes to be in a position to take on more staff when the guesthouse is up and running.

Despite receiving no grants or subsidies for their new developments, except for a small funding contribution from NIE towards the hydro-electric project, Tom and Patricia have forged ahead with their vision to make Ballylagan Farm a unique tourist destination offering visitors an ‘all organic experience’.

“We’re an organic farm producing and selling organic food and we’re now expanding what we do here with the addition of the tea room and the guesthouse,” Tom explained.

“This isn’t some sort of beard and sandals exercise and it’s not about self-denial - it’s about people coming here and enjoying the surroundings and getting the best food available. We want people to be patting their tummy on the way out, wanting to come back for more.”

Read the full story in this week’s Times...