Food and drink learning inspires Arran businesses

Some of the participants heading back to Arran.

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Over the last month Arran’s Food Journey has delivered a two-part learning programme aimed at inspiring Arran food and drink business leaders and support organisations to take the island’s great product to the next level.

First, the group embarked on a learning journey through Ayrshire, Dumfries and Galloway, led by food from farming consultant Sheena Horner.

Participants visited farms, agritourism businesses, cafés, restaurants and food manufacturers where there was a strong emphasis on local and sustainable food and drink.

They learned about regenerative farming techniques and how Highland cows can benefit plant diversity on land they graze because they are a lighter breed.

Lessons they brought back to Arran included seeing these same cows and red deer being used to create profitable visitor attraction agritourism businesses alongside a farm’s primary business.

The group was challenged to think about diversification and adding value in their own businesses back on Arran.

A farm that has achieved just that by creating a smoked lamb product which it makes at the farm resulted in those who were not normally fans of eating lamb being amazed and inspired by its flavour.

Guest speakers helped participants consider approaches to flexible staff working and opportunities for career progression to reduce staff turnover and how businesses can be brought together to create stories to build a brand.

Arran Geopark’s project coordinator made invaluable connections with managers of the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere who explained the organisation’s journey over the last 10 years and offered an ongoing exchange of ideas.

The second event held was a presentation by long-term friend of Arran and international tourism consultant Professor Terry Stevens, whose new book Wish You Were Here – Europe features Arran.

Business owners, managers and chefs from across Arran’s food and drink sector were presented with examples of international best practice.

They used them to identify lessons that they would apply to Arran’s already excellent food and drink sector to develop deeper experiences and new memories for consumers.

Arran’s Food Journey co-ordinator Cameron Bruce said: ‘Our thanks must go to Arran Mogabout for smooth transport; Professor Terry Stevens for challenging us to take Arran’s Food and Drink product to the next level; and Highlands and Islands Enterprise whose support enabled this learning. We’ve built a closer team that will drive collaboration to create more joined-up experiences.’

Sorka, the star of the show at the Highland cow farm.