Mary’s Tour, Dispatches from Shetland
Joined throughout by Beatrice Wishart (MSP Shetland) and Neil Beattie (Team Leader – Catering and Cleaning, Shetland Island), I visited 4 different businesses:
Across these 4 agri-food and drink businesses we witnessed great entrepreneurial spirt, real resilience, the generation of, and support for, multiple local jobs and the willingness to take personal and professional risks to grow and expand (where possible). There was also a real and deep connection to place, a commitment to, and innovation in how they, supply and deliver to public and/or private sector customers (role of the local public bus service in delivery suppliers to schools and businesses) and the perfect storm which threatens their viability and capacity to continue to generate jobs and produce, process and serve local Shetland food and drink.
We learnt how public food (in particular school food) is transforming in Shetland in terms of standardised school menus, local procurement, workforce pay and development, investment in food in schools (polytunnels and school gardens) and the recent award of Food for Life Bronze accreditation.
We also learnt how the tourism sector is growing and offers real potential for small food and drink businesses but that more needs to be done to join up the support and facilitate creative partnership working (including between public and private sector).
Across the sites visited, a shared set of common challenges emerged namely:
Whilst Storm Dudley and Eunice have played havoc with my original plans to head straight from Shetland to the outer Hebrides (rescheduled to late March), my grand tour of Scotland continues with trips next week to farms, a vegetable producer, community initiatives, independent local food retailers, and a central public kitchen with stops in Glasgow (Mon 21st), Dumfries and Galloway (Tues 22nd), Argyll and Bute (24th) and Islay (25th).