LAG Jammerbugt-Vesthimmerland visit Scotland
Last week the Scottish Rural Network (SRN) hosted a visit from a group of 10 Danish Local Action Group (LAG) members from the Jammerbugt-Vesthimmerland region who wanted to visit LEADER funded projects in Scotland. They were specifically interested in the food development and sustainable growth fields and wanted an insight into projects that have been successful in this area, in particular any challenges they have faced/overcome and any learning or networking they could glean from this experience.
SRN hosted a welcome dinner for the group in Perth on the night of their arrival which gave the opportunity for some networking and to get to know everyone before embarking on two exciting days of project visits.
The first day saw the group travel to 4 projects in the Rural Perth and Kinross area; Cultybraggan Camp, Crieff Food Company, Loch Leven’s Larder and Loch Leven Brewery. Lorraine and Alan from SRN accompanied the group along with Iain Matheson and Laura Martin from Rural Perth and Kinross LAG.
Phil Mestecky at Cultybraggan gave a tour round the former prisoner of war camp and the various businesses who have now set up there, including Beetroot and Chocolate Caterers, Strathearn Cheese Company, Wild Thyme Bakery and also a walk around the community orchard. He explained about the long term vision for the camp including the restoration of one of the old Nissen huts using historic photographs, in order to replicate how it looked when it was originally in use. Comrie Development Trust have used LEADER funding here to fund a Heritage Manager post with a view to developing the site into a tourist attraction. A truly fascinating place.
Following on from the second project visit of the day at the Crieff Food Company (and possibly the best chocolate brownie we have ever tasted), the group made their way to Loch Leven’s Larder in Kinross where they were treated to a fabulous lunch celebrating all things Scottish, in the newly opened ‘Tasting Room’. Robin and Emma Niven took the group through their business model, the various changes it has gone through and how LEADER has helped them to grow the Larder into the thriving establishment it now is.
The day was finished off nicely with a tour round Loch Leven Brewery and a chat from Jamie Montgomery about how they transformed a disused public convenience into a microbrewery in a prime location in Kinross, with the assistance of LEADER funding.
The second day of the trip saw the group visiting a further four projects, this time in the Forth Valley and Lomond LAG area; The Stirling Tea Company, Arnprior Pumpkin Farm, Balmaha Pontoon and St Mocha Coffee. The group were accompanied by Lorraine from SRN and by Nikki Kenn and Anne-Michelle Ketteridge of Forth Valley and Lomond LEADER.
We were very lucky with the weather on day 2 which showcased Scotland in all its glory. The morning was spent on Fordhead Farm at the Stirling Tea Company and further down the road at Arnprior Pumpkins, two excellent examples of farm diversification. Both projects explained how they have had to overcome various issues to get them to where there are today and gave the group insight into some of the exciting opportunities that are being developed to take the businesses forward.
The group finished up the day with a visit to two LEADER funded projects in Balmaha; Balmaha Pontoon and St Mocha Coffee, where we were treated to a demonstration of their coffee roasting machine in action. David and Stuart Fraser did a fantastic job of explaining all the work that has gone into their various businesses in Balmaha, how LEADER has helped them realise some of these and their vision of enhancing Balmaha as a tourist destination.
Peter Bach Frederickson, Leader Coordinator of the Danish LAG said “Scotland is a fantastic country and the people are very friendly and helpful. This trip has reminded us of how close Scotland and Denmark really are. Our historic backgrounds and societies are very close. It has been very nice to meet your projects and the creativity we have seen over here in solving some of the challenges that we also have in Denmark.”
Anne-Michelle Ketteridge, Programme Manager of Forth Valley and Lomond LEADER said “We really enjoyed meeting a LAG from another country to exchange experiences about how we do things in our respective countries as well as in our respective LEADER areas. The businesses loved receiving the Danish visitors and the Danes loved getting to know more about the individual projects and relating them to projects they are involved with in Denmark. So much so that we are now thinking of doing a rural entrepreneur exchange project with Denmark”.
A huge thanks must go to all the projects for their time and effort and for being so welcoming to the group and to the LAG/LEADER staff for accompanying the Danes and sharing their local knowledge and insight.