Farming is in Allan Moore’s blood, and when his wife Joanna learned the ropes at their farm in Lonmay, the pair have been a force to be reckoned with.
By profession, Joanna is an architect and formerly worked at a local architectural office. However, after being diagnosed with stage three breast cancer five years ago, everything changed.
The 40-year-old mum-of-three underwent chemotherapy, radiotherapy and an operation over the course a year.
She is currently undergoing preventive hormone therapy.
“This perhaps is not really related to farming, but if someone is reading [this] and is going through cancer treatment, it might be a little positive boost,” says Joanna.
“After all the treatment, I decided not to go back to office work but help on the farm.
“This way I could be outside and spend more time with family and nature, as well as grow my own vegetables – to make sure we all eat healthy. It definitely helped on many levels and is very uplifting.
“I enjoyed growing veg so much that we thought ‘why not try to grow more and sell?'”
Battling cancer whilst helping farm, sell and build farming portfolio
Joanna and Allan, 44, have three kids aged 13, 11 and seven.
Whilst Joanna underwent treatment, Allan sold their cattle and worked on arable crops.
However, “he missed the livestock” and eventually decided to buy cattle again but try something different, wagyu.
Joanna added: “It’s [a] slow maturing Japanese breed and their meat is known for its marbling which makes it very tender and special.
“Later, Allan also got some sheep (which he never liked and swore he would never have, but got to like working with them). Must be middle age thing,” she joked.
“And last year we got some traditional breed pigs and even a wild boar cross.”
At the moment, there is no sign of recurrence for Joanna’s breast cancer.
However, she went on say: “The oncologist said there is no such thing as all clear as there is always a chance (although the longer from treatment the lesser chance) that cancer will come back.
“We just have to learn to live with that.”
Then came Asqu Farm Shop in Strichen, which only sells local produce
Roughly 18 months ago, the husband and wife started selling at farmers’ markets.
Around a year later, they experimented by offering their produce at a self service shop in Strichen, now known as Asqu Farm Shop. It occupies a converted garage.
Here, customers can expect products made from their own grown animals (at Whiteside Farm) including wagyu beef, pork, wild boar and lamb.
There’s also vegetables, honey, eggs and other local produce and handcrafted items available.
Joanna says: “Also, [a] couple of months ago we used a local smokehouse and had smoked pork and wild boar. These turned out amazing and we plan to do it again.
“What we don’t grow, we source locally only.
“Many farm shops buy from wholesalers out of season. We would like to sell 100% locally grown.
“This might mean that we don’t have all veg all-year-round but that’s how it traditionally would be and this is the most sustainable way.”
Joanna and Allan’s vegetables are grown on a 0.5 ha field on Knockiemore Farm, which is going through an organic conversion.
They will be able to sell organic veg from 2025.
“It’s considerably small scale [the field] but big enough for now as we are trying different varieties and ways of growing,” she went on to say.
“At the moment we can supply veg late spring-winter season but we’re working on being able to supply all-year-round.”
‘We are passionate about our countryside’
Allan works on the farm full-time with two other farm workers, while Joanna’s focus is on the vegetables.
“Our kids are still primary school age and being mum is the most important job,” she added.
“But as the kids and my experience grow, I will be able to grow more [veg] hopefully.
“Farming is hard physical work with many unnecessary bureaucratic issues but seeing the end product being enjoyed by local people, our friends and neighbours is very rewarding.
“We are also passionate about our countryside and nature and would like to farm in the most sustainable way we can.
“Allan and I would like to expand our veg varieties and harvesting season. [We’re] also looking into growing fruit like strawberries, etc.”