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Highland partnership helps reduce food miles

By Tom Ramage

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High Life Highland staff at Inverness Botanic Gardens and Nursery are finding new ways to make sure that locally grown produce from the GROW project is put to good use.

They have teamed up with Highland food wholesaler Swansons to supply ‘home grown’ salad and vegetables for inclusion in veg boxes which are available online for delivery in the Inverness area.

Botanic Gardens manager Ewan Mackintosh said: “We had been looking at developing ways to support the GROW project and finding new routes to market for their ‘home grown’ produce. The current situation across the country has accelerated these plans resulting in the partnership with Swansons. The feedback so far has been excellent, and we are delighted for the trainees.”

Salad days in the Highlands
Salad days in the Highlands

Any money generated from the salad and veg will be reinvested in supporting the project.

While the initial arrangement has been put in place during lockdown, discussions are already underway to look at the potential for a longer-term sustainable partnership to be developed as life returns to normal.

Magnus Swanson, managing director of Swansons said: “As a local family business which has been hit hard by the Coronavirus lockdown, we were happy to help a local charity by buying salad and sending it out in our online veg boxes to our local retail customers.

"We are delighted with the exceptional quality and variety of the produce and we have had great feedback from our regular veg box customers who appreciate the low food miles and freshness of the produce. We are keen to continue working with the GROW project and to use more of their salads, vegetables and herbs as they come into season.”

The project, which stands for Garden, Recycling, Organic and Wildlife, is a training scheme for vulnerable adults. It has been running for 22 years at the botanic gardens and was faced with potential closure in May last year following a reduction in the amount of financial support from its previous funder.

Thanks to Inverness businessman David Sutherland and his wife Anne, who stepped in pledging £20,000 in support, the project was saved ensuring that it has been able to continue.

Mr Sutherland said: “I have seen how much the trainees enjoy their outdoor work and learning and it would have been a tragedy if the project had been lost.

“My wife and I are really pleased to have been able to support the project and we are delighted to see that their hard work is being rewarded in this way allowing local people to enjoy the produce.”

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