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Woodside Farm has opened its first permanent farm produce outlet in a converted shipping container, clad in Arran timber, on Brodick shorefront.
The social enterprise, which did so much to help with the supply of cut-price fruit and vegetables from its van round the island during the pandemic, hopes to boost production for the shop by 50 per cent in the coming months.
The ‘soft’ opening is aimed at ironing out any teething problems with the automated technology ahead of a full opening before Easter but vegetables, salad and eggs are already available.
Woodside Arran is also set to expand its operation further thanks to a grant from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE). The £49,500 investment will allow the Kildonan-based company to build a steel-framed shed to house a new processing area, storage room, kitchen and education space and enable the business to keep up with demand for local produce.
In addition to increasing fruit and vegetable production by up to 50 per cent in the processing area, the new storage space will allow produce to be stored in a temperature-controlled environment, which will reduce waste and ensure plentiful supplies during the winter.
Products such as chutneys, quiches and pesto will be produced in the kitchen, and sold in the farm shop, while various educational opportunities will be created using the onsite classroom. These include a nine-month mentorship programme, volunteer days and school visits.
The £90,000 project is expected to create two new jobs in the next five years and increase Woodside Arran’s turnover by more than £220,000. It will also continue contributing to the net zero agenda through the elimination of food miles generated in the supply of fresh produce to the island.
Woodside Arran was formed in May 2017 by husband and wife Andy and Jenny Macdonald. Their initial aims were to address the lack of local fresh produce available on the island and create a diverse local food network for residents and visitors.
In 2021, HIE approved a £30,000 investment to help the business expand its activities using a fresh produce vending machine. This latest project will allow them to improve the efficiency of their on-farm operation and make a significant difference to the next stage of Woodside’s growth.
Jenny said: ‘The new harvesting shed, part funded by HIE, is going to have a significant impact on Woodside Arran’s productivity and social impact. Over these last few difficult years, the need for resilient, all-season local food production has become clearer than ever and with HIE’s support, Woodside is going to be able to provide this for our community, while creating jobs and offering additional outreach and education opportunities.
‘The new shed will allow us to produce higher quantities of produce, reduce waste and ensure our community has access to quality, affordable, healthy produce year-round.’
The expansion of Woodside Farm was welcomed by Morag Goodfellow, HIE area manager for Argyll and the Islands, who said: ‘Woodside Arran has played a pivotal role in providing fresh produce for Arran throughout the pandemic. We are delighted to see demand for this increase to the point that it needs to expand capacity and diversify its offering.
‘There are many benefits to this project. It will expand the range of local produce available, create more jobs on Arran and contribute to the wider net zero agenda.
‘We are pleased to provide this support and look forward to continuing to work with the company.’
Woodside CIC will also benefit from another HIE initiative, the graduate support programme, which offers graduates 12-month, well-paid work experience placements in a variety of industries.
Liverpool University and Belfast College of Technology graduates Jenny Hourigan and William Loane will be working with Woodside Arran to help with a Covid recovery plan.
Andy Macdonald in the new Brodick farm shop. 01_B12Woodside01
Andy, outside the vending machines, currently sells seasonal produce and eggs and this will increase over the months ahead. 01_B12Woodside02