Fields of Gold
INTERVIEW:HE MAY BE one of the State’s most eminent barristers, but John Rogers also has another life, one that’s far away from horse hair wigs and legal briefs. It involves crop rotation, combine harvesters and yields per tonne.
The senior counsel and former attorney general runs a farm in Slane, Co Meath. His 200 year-old farmhouse at Crewbane overlooks the Boyne Valley and the burial tomb at Knowth. If that isn’t enough, Newgrange is down the road.
“This area of the Boyne Valley is really a fabulous place to live,” he says. “It’s a lovely spot.”
And it’s from this lovely spot that he has started another enterprise. Next week he will launch Newgrange Gold, a range of premium rapeseed and camelina oils for culinary purposes.
It all started about 20 years ago when the barrister bought the farm in an effort to leave the city behind after his working day.
“It was an experiment to try to look at a different way of living,” he recalls. Up to then, he had been immersed in work. He was called to the bar in 1973 and was described by colleagues as one of the hardest-working barristers in the Law Library. He became a senior counsel in 1984 just as he was appointed attorney general by the Fine Gael-Labour coalition. He was still only 34.
Although he was born in Dún Laoghaire, his father was from Meath and he spent a lot of his childhood in Navan and knew the territory when he bought the farm. Rogers started his agricultural experiment with cattle.
“I had a suckler herd for 12 or 14 years but I couldn’t make it work,” he says. “Some years I would do all right but other years it didn’t work at all.” He decided to plant grain and things went much better.
A few years ago, the barrister began planting rapeseed. As he watched trailer loads of the bright yellow crop leaving his farmyard he began to wonder if there was something he could do with it.
Rapeseed oil, which can be used in the same way as olive oil, is high in Omega 3, 6 and 9. So Rogers decided to try producing his own culinary oil. The cold-pressed oil was fruity and flavoursome. He had found his niche.
This year he hopes his entire rape crop will be pressed into oil. As well as plain rapeseed oil, he has produced a rapeseed oil with garden herbs and one with chilli garlic.
He has also branched into camelina oil, a lighter-tasting nutty oil suitable for dressings and marinades. “It has about two and a half to three times the level of Omega 3 as rapeseed oil which makes it very special,” he says.