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Monday, 5 September 2011

Free the fife one

Leigh Sparks - Stirling Retail (original blog has a number of images to complement the story)

A few posts back I made some comments about farm shops and shops on a farm. The response directly to me was fascinating. Which is how I came to spend a day last week in Fife – and no, contrary to some of my colleagues views of the Kingdom, I was not kidnapped or held against my will.

Instead I spent a fruitful day looking at varieties of farm shops in the vicinity of Cupar (itself a market town of some interest). Starting and finishing at the excellent Fisher & Donaldson bakery/coffee shop in Cupar, we spent time in four different farm shops and had great conversations and discussions about farm shops, authenticity, localness and its meaning and business generally.

So what did I learn or conclude?

There are first-class businesses out there run by passionate people with love of what they do, the produce they grow and the place they are in. They deserve to succeed. Perhaps this is not new, but seeing these, sometimes hidden, gems reinforces the point.

Farm shops span a huge variety from the authentic, this farm only, approach, through to the shop on a farm with mainly bought in product, whether local, national or even international. We should not decry any of these, as they all have some degree of local in them, most certainly local employment and they appeal to different groups of consumers and visitors.

These farm shops need to tell their stories; about the place, the produce, the rhythms of life on the farm/land and the excellence of what they do. Not all do this well enough or consistently enough yet. And we need to link these shops up to engage those who want to seek out this variety and difference. This also requires the (council) authorities to help promote these great resources on their doorstep, and not to hinder them.

People use (and love) the farm shop for various reasons, but mainly because they are meeting places for food, coffee and in some cases localness. They provide learning experiences and a sense of exploration of our natural larder. They are far more than simply a place to buy stuff (as good as that may be).

Some of the produce was exceptional – in quality, price and in environmental terms. Good seasonal, local produce, grown or produced on the farm, with no food miles and often at a price cheaper or comparable with large stores. What is not to like? We need to get closer to seasonality and authenticity of product.

We have to cherish and promote our produce and our heritage of great Scottish food. Farm shops are one element of this (we will return to farmers markets at some time). Get out and try them soon – hopefully you will be pleased and inspired by what they are trying to achieve.

Thanks to all for the time, discussion, coffee and fruit!

For the record I visited:

Fisher & Donaldson, Ceres Road, Cupar, KY15 5JT

Muddy Boots, Balmalcolm Farm, Balmalcolm, KY 15 7TJ

Cairnie Fruit Farm, Cairnie, Cupar, KY15 4QD

Pittormie Fruit Farm, Dairsie, KY15 4SW

Balgove Larder, Strathtyrum, St Andrews, KY16 9SF

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