We spoke to Andy who was in the van on a beautiful May morning at its weekly Brodick stop. Andy and Jenny McDonald, of Woodside Farm in Kildonan, are the organic growers, and brains, behind the Real Food Shop. Andy had been up and ‘cropping’ salad and herbs for the shop that morning at 7 am. He told the Voice that the van “was a natural progression, after starting the Community Supported Agriculture vegetable boxes at the farm. The next thing seemed to be to set up a shop that we could take round the island”.
The van is filled with fresh organic produce. Some is from their farm, such as the salads, spinach and herbs, duck and goose eggs, as well as some organic meat, and what they cannot cultivate they source from nearby (and further afield) organic farms, including milk from the award winning Wee Isle Dairy on Gigha. There are first season tomatoes from the Isle of Wight, bananas, and pineapples, alongside ginger, chillis and Fairtrade tea and rice. Andy explained that the produce that comes from abroad is all brought by ferry, and nothing they sell in the shop arrives in the UK by plane. Their aim is to provide a wide choice of food including fresh fruit and vegetables, meat and dairy, as well as cupboard staples, while also retaining the community ethos and customer relationships that a local farm and business can support.
Andy said, “It is a process of getting to know what customers want and getting the right amount of stock”. On this Saturday morning for instance the Gigha milk had sold out. (I will have to return for some more another day – it sounds like pretty special milk). Andy explained, “The milk in Gigha is the only place in Scotland that continues the tradition of low pasteurization, where the milk is treated at a much lower heat (at 48 degrees C) and for a comparatively much longer time than the milk in supermarkets”. The result is creamy whole milk which has retained many more of its healthy vitamins, minerals and probiotics which the mainstream pasteurization process kills off. Andy says he is lobbying other milk farmers, including those left on Arran, to take up this traditional, and at one time ‘mainstream’, method of low pasteurization.
The process of setting up the shop has been slow but steady, and over the past year or so Andy and Jenny have worked hard at getting to know customers, growing the production on their farm, and setting up relationships with suppliers – all the logistics of actually making a business happen, not to mention raising a young family at the same time. Andy explained that at the start of their vegetable box scheme, the Community Supported Agriculture model allowed them to move the business forward. “It means customers pay for six months or a year in advance, which goes back into the company to buy things such as seeds, and keep the produce, and business, growing”, he said.
This inspiring couple have more exciting plans in the pipeline. As they have built relationships across the island and people have come to know about their work, they have had lots of offers of unused land, from people with big gardens, and empty poly-tunnels, which could be used for Woodside farm and community cultivation. Andy and Jenny’s vision is eventually for an island wide community based growing scheme, something to definitely look out for and look forward to.
Visit the Real Food Shop at:
Lochranza hall – Friday 10 am – 1 pm
Corrie hall – Friday 3.30 – 5.30 pm
Brodick, either Ormidale Park or Auchrannie Road – Saturday 10 am – 1 pm
And coming soon: Whiting Bay 10 – 1 pm, and Lamlash tbc.
And online at www.woodsidearran.com and on facebook.