Introducing Woodside Arran (CIC)
The Early Years
Woodside Arran, a new learner member of the ScotLAND network of permaculture demonstration sites, was founded 2 years ago in October 2016 by Jenny and Andy MacDonald. Their vision is to build a diverse food network on the Isle of Arran that encompasses organic growing techniques, permaculture design principles and regenerative agricultural practices.
With Jenny being a trained Medical Herbalist and Nutritionist, and Andy’s background as a landscaper, tree surgeon and also a qualified mental health nurse, the husband and wife team decided to settle on Arran to realise their dream of setting up a permaculture farm.
The first couple of years setting up Woodside have been both eventful and challenging but it has also been very rewarding to see the enthusiasm in the local community for what we are doing. As well as starting work on our gorgeous 83 acre site on the pastoral south end of the island, we have focussed on developing a long term market for our produce within Arran’s permanent local community of around 5,000 people, and also with visitors to the island throughout the year.
Over 2 years we have developed the 3 acres around the home site into a productive market garden with 48 beds. It was previously overgrown and in a state of disrepair. As of Autumn 2018 we are filling our veg boxes with around 50% of produce from our own farm, including (but not limited to) courgettes, radishes, bags of mixed salad, kohlrabi, celery, garlic, peas, various herbs and edible flowers.
In addition to our market gardens, we also have 50 hens who are currently running around on our bottom fields which total 13 acres, in order to fix nitrogen into the clay heavy soil as we plan to expand our market gardens. We are using a portable chicken coop to move them from one patch to the next every six days to allow the grass to regenerate. Over the next year we plan to scale up this operation with several hundred hens to meet the demand for eggs laid on Arran - there is currently no regular supply of Arran eggs on the market.
Probably the most popular product amongst locals has been our free range, rare breed pork. We have a lovely group of pigs, who not only work as full time rotavators for the market garden areas but have the best time clearing and regenerating the woodland areas which we intend to develop into Forest Gardens in the long term to grow even more unusual edibles in. These rare breeds - such as Large Black and Oxford Sandy and Black - not only produce a higher quality of meat but ensure that important breeds are not lost in favour of heavier faster growing commercial breeds.
Bringing Better Produce To Arran
We strongly believe that building a sustainable local market for our produce is of equal importance to developing our permaculture farm, and we do the two things hand in hand.
We established our fruit and veg box service in summer 2017, which has featured our own local produce where possible, alongside high quality organic produce we have brought in from the mainland. Our focus has been to offer the best choice of healthy, affordable organic produce on Arran as a short term strategy until our market gardens are fully established.
In addition to our home delivery service, at the beginning of 2018 we invested in a Mobile Shop which we take to villages all around the island on a weekly rota - including the north end of the island in Lochranza, some 30 miles away from our farm. We also have an online shop where customers can pre order our products for pick up.
Moving to CSA
We are really pleased with the reception to our organic fruit and veg boxes on the island, and are now ready to take it to the next level. From Spring 2019 we are moving to a more traditional CSA model, where 100% of the produce in the boxes will be grown on our farm. We will continue to offer shipped in high quality produce through our mobile shop, but our long term goal has always been to focus on growing our own produce so we are excited to take our plans forward! Watch this space.
Talk about polycultures!