Cairngorms Food for Life

Cairngorms Food for Life

Name of organisation/business: 
Cairngorms Food for Life
£58,300 Cairngorms LEADER
Scottish Rural Development Programme priority: 
Enhancing the rural economy
Contact details: 
Project Manager: Jackie Farquhar Contact Details:



Cairngorms National Park

What are the aims of your project?

Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) and Soil Association Scotland working in partnership and in consultation with a wide range of stakeholders, produced a Cairngorms Food for Life Development Plan, which is a strategic regional food and drink plan for the National Park.

The aim of the Cairngorms Food for Life Development Plan was to create a sustainable food economy, which has local food production, distribution and consumption at its heart. The Plan identified seven outcomes, which not only deliver the aspirations and aims of Food for Life, but help deliver strategic priorities for Cairngorms National Park and the Scottish Government. This project aimed to deliver specific actions in the Plan:

  • develop market intelligence

  • increase demand for local produce

  • develop food tourism

  • build skills and improve collaboration

  • develop a programme for schools in a range of hands-on food-growing, farming and cooking activities

How did your project achieve these aims?

The project was delivered mainly using the Food for Life approach by promoting a holistic delivery model for education, access and sustainability, to deliver a range of health, environmental and socio-economic benefits.

The following activities were delivered over the life of the project from January 2011 to March 2014.

Led by CNPA

  • An audit of Food and Drink in the Cairngorms National Park
  • Best of the Wurst
  • Food and Fiddle Festival
  • Venison Demonstration
  • Cultural Exchange of Culinary Skills and Local Food Production
  • Cairngorms Food and Drink Trail

Led by Development Officer

  • Orchard Project, Orchard Workshops and Orchard Day Event
  • Growing courses for teachers
  • Training for Chefs to participate in ‘Chefs Adopt a School’
  • Chefs Adopt a School
  • Cookery Clubs
  • Healthier Scotland Cooking Bus
  • Countryside Food & Farming Day
  • Culfoich Farm Visit
  • Schools Farmers Market

Who's involved?

The CNPA coordinated and enabled the delivery of the Cairngorms Food for Life Development Plan, whilst ensuring it was delivered in partnership with Soils Association Scotland.

The key areas of responsibility for strategic management within CNPA  included:

  • industry insight and expertise to inform the implementation of the Plan

  • ensured the Plan’s implementation remained well linked into current national and local activities and initiatives around food and drink

  • ensured the Plan’s implementation continued to reflect the needs of a range of stakeholders concerned with food and drink e.g. farming, food processing, tourism, health, education and community

  • provided financial management for all aspects of implementing the Plan including financial claims to funders

  • monitored and evaluated the Plan’s implementation

  • produced reports for the Plan’s funders and stakeholders

Soil Association Scotland was the employing agent for the Development Officer.

  • provided line management for staff

  • provided administrative and HR support for staff

How was the project funded?

The project was funded with £58,300 from Cairngorms LEADER, part of the Scottish Rural Development Programme.

Where did you go for help and advice?

A Steering Group was set up to ensure dedicated support and advice to staff engaged in the delivery of the Plan. The group comprised approximately eight representatives, drawn from the primary production, processing, retail, hospitality and tourism sectors based within the Park.

The group’s key responsibilities were to:

  • set the direction for the Plan and ensure delivery against this

  • promote engagement with the Plan to all stakeholders locally

  • support the staff team

  • be Food for Life champions

What have you learnt?

The project was successful when it came to engaging with schools and, to a lesser extent, communities, and this was down to the dedicated Development Officer.

The more challenging aspects of delivery of the Food for Life Development Plan were ‘Improving the distribution of local produce’ and ‘Improving supply and availability of local produce’. This may have been due to:

  • more effort being put into the schools and communities element in the first two years

  • the low number of producers in the National Park; and/or

  • limited partner buy in to deliver the Food for Life Development Plan

Having a dedicated Development Officer on the ground is essential to make things happen in schools and communities.  Funding for this long term is not sustainable but we did find that legacies were left in schools and communities and they are continuing with the ethos of that element of the project.

Your greatest achievements?

We delivered:

  • an Audit of Food and Drink
  • Increased demand for local produce – Orchard Project, Orchard Day Event, Cultural Exchange of Culinary Skills and Local Food Production and Best of the Wurst Sausage Festival
  • developed food tourism – Food and Fiddle Festival and Cairngorms Food and Drink Trail
  • built skills and improved collaboration – Cairngorms Food & Drink Group, Training for Chefs to participate in “Chefs Adopt a School”, Orchard Workshops, Growing courses and Venison demonstration
  • developed a programme for schools in a range of hands-on food-growing, farming and cooking activities – Chefs Adopt a School, Cookery Clubs, Healthier Scotland Cooking Bus, Countryside Food & Farming Day, Farm Visit, School Farmers’ Market, and School Vegetable Garden

The project delivered under each of the identified action areas.

And the biggest challenge?

The Development Officer was great at working with schools but it was more difficult to engage with communities. This was remedied by the Orchard project. 

Chefs Adopt a School was extremely popular but following the training for chefs only two went into schools on a regular basis and the other trained chefs were too busy. It is important not to underestimate how difficult it is for full time workers to provide voluntary time in the middle of a working week.

What's next for your project?

The Cairngorms Business Partnership (CBP), Public, and Private Sector partners worked together (as the Cairngorms Economic Forum) to identify the key priorities and actions to support economic growth in Cairngorms National Park.  This forum has developed and is now implementing the Cairngorms Economic Strategy delivering Economic Development in the National Park.  The Strategy identifies the key priorities for economic growth in the area, the actions that must be delivered to make this happen, and who needs to be involved. 

For the sector Agriculture, Food and Drink the following actions have been identified:

  • collaboration between producers to improve marketing, product availability, facilities, distribution and more resilient local supply and processing chains

  • training/skills development needs

You can find out more on the Cairngorms National Park website.