Hazel Mackenzie tells the story of Mackenzie's Farm Shop and Cafe13 December 2018
I have been in agriculture since I was born 47 years ago! There are many challenges in crofting, particularly when you are on a small island, like Shetland, in the middle of the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean. With the year-on-year prices of livestock falling, plus other uncertainties, we decided to diversify into holiday accommodation but using our croft as a marketing tool. This we did in 2012 and now have two busy self catering holiday lodges.
The first questions our lodge guests asked us was “where can we buy local food?” and “where can we eat local food?” While we provided a hamper of our own produce to our guests and opened an honesty box on our croft - full of our own vegetables, fruits and eggs, local bread and milk, The Shetland Times, sweets, local cakes, fire wood, etc - we thought we could do better by opening a farm shop and cafe from which we could serve and sell our own beef, lamb and pork, etc.
We gained LEADER and Shetland Islands Council Funding, started our build in October 2016 and opened the doors of Shetland’s only (and Britain's most northerly) Farm Shop & Cafe in June 2017. We have been encouraged at the level of support we have from visitors and locals alike. Our produce is delicious, people know where it came from, how the animal was treated, where it was raised and can see it walk by the window of the Farm Shop regularly! We are delighted with the result of our hard work - a VisitScotland 4 Star business!
We knew that our strength would be in our determination and dedication for our project to succeed. We did, literally, years of research finding out what we thought would work in Shetland and what would not. There being no farm shop and cafe in Shetland, we travelled to the Mainland to find ideas. We sourced over 2,500 lines for the Farm Shop and have over 50 local suppliers of produce, crafts, gifts, textiles, stationery, clothing, etc. As our business grows and we can afford it, we hope to build it into one of Shetland’s main destinations.
In the absence of a local shop, we have built a community hub, toilet facilities, tourist and local information point, plus cafe provision for locals and visitors alike. Our village of Cunningsburgh has a caravan park and we have a large car park where caravaners have easy use to pop along and collect their supplies. Bus tours and LGV drivers are regulars in our Farm Shop & Cafe, as are tradespeople looking for meals.
In our business plan we projected that we would have four full time and three part time/seasonal staff. We now have four full time staff and 14 part time staff per month!
It wasn’t long before we started to use our kitchens to produce our own jams, marmalades and chutneys. Within five months of opening we were delighted to be awarded a contract with NorthLink Ferries to supply them with four kinds of jams and marmalades. These are now on both the MV Hjaltland & MV Hrossey - the lifeline ferries to Shetland. Our products are also stocked in VisitScotland’s Tourist Information Centre in Lerwick and outlets across Shetland.
We also sell our full range in the Taste of Shetland online shop.
To top off our successes this year, we were thrilled to be awarded ‘Highly Commended’ in the New Business category at the 2018 Highlands & Islands Food and Drink Awards and were a finalist in the Independent Food & Drink Retailer of the Year.
We are excited to see where things will take us in 2019!