Islay Farmers Market Dunlossit Estate

Friday is Real Food day up at Knocklearach, tempting us with bacon, ham, bread, honey, jams, and cakes, as well as meat from local producers

The creation of a Friday Farmer’s Market up at Knocklearach has completed the path from farm gate to plate for Dunlossit. A simple converted barn with serving benches and a chiller cabinet provides an outlet for a steadily increasing range of local produce that now extends well beyond meat from Estate farms. The list now includes, bacon, cured ham, bread, cakes, vegetables, honey, chutneys and even duck eggs if you get lucky. You do have to think a little differently though - because this is not your usual shop, this is real food which often takes a bit more planning than simply lifting it from a supermarket shelf. You may have to order your produce and wait a wee while - but being organised has its benefits....

There are lots of Islay people involved, and some from Jura too. It all started with the idea of adding value to the top quality beasts produced by farmers such as Alan Hogg up at Ceannacroic who bred this year’s Oban champion yearling Highland heifer ‘Lilian Ruadh of Ceannacroic’ out of ‘Princess Ealasaid of Achnacloich’. The building of the Avonvoggie Abattoir has meant that new markets have opened up for such enterprising farmers - particularly perhaps those who raise traditional breeds, and they have received a significant boost now that the abattoir has been certificated to kill beasts that are over thirty months old (OTM). Traditional breeds such as Highlanders or Galloways grow much more slowly than the big continental animals such as Charolais or Limousin and getting them ‘finished’ by the 30 month cut-off date has been frankly a bit of a pain up to now, but now that OTM animals can be slaughtered life is going to be much easier. Continue reading.....

Dunlossit have now had their mobile butchering van certificated as a cutting plant, which means that the spinal cord can be removed from the animal at the abattoir prior to the carcass being delivered to the butcher. This is one of the fundamental requirements for OTM certification and the abattoir is delighted to have overcome this hurdle enabling animals up to 48 months old to be slaughtered. Moves are afoot to obtain certification for animals over 48 months too - a process which it is hoped will be completed in the next three months. Being able to kill OTM animals will be a significant boost to smaller farms and crofts who often concentrate on the traditional breeds and who are in a position to find markets for small numbers of animals - and there are a number of producers on Islay already taking advantage of this. The ‘Meat Islay’ website lists seventeen farmers and crofters who are part of the scheme, and there are boxes of meat from Islay travelling to customers all over the country as a result.

The butchering side of the business has also been made much easier now that Dunlossit has linked up with Neil Campbell Butchers in Port Ellen. This has been of tremendous benefit to all parties as it gives Dunlossit direct access to a retail market while allowing Neil “to be released from the administrative burden enabling him to concentrate on putting Islay meat on his counter.” Technically, the name of the butchers shop is now ‘Dunlossit Trustees Ltd trading as Campbell Butchers’, but the everyday reality is that the shop continues to operate as and display the proud banner ‘Campbell Butchers’ just as it always has. There will be no significant changes to the services built up by the two Neils since the shop opened - although Dunlossit Trustees told the Ileach that “We are delighted that Neil McAffer has returned to work for Dunlossit after a gap of around 21 years!”

All this means a welcome return towards a more traditional way of life when almost every village on Islay had its own abattoir and butcher, enabling communities to routinely eat their own produce. There is indeed no reason why Islay should not become entirely self-sufficient in meat, which was probably the case around forty years ago. We now have commercial producers of beef, lamb, pork and venison. All we need now is for someone to start producing chickens for the pot.... As the world moves inexorably towards a global meat shortage, largely driven by the increasing demands for meat from China, this is no bad position to be in.

The new Farmers Market is however about much more than just raw meat. Denise Rozga from Jura has been baking her organic bread for sale there, and Catriona McGillivray has been offering the cakes from her new enterprise called “The Baking Bowl”. Islay House Garden provides boxes of seasonal vegetables from the community garden, and there are more vegetables available from the Dunlossit gardens too. Joe and Innes McIndeor of Bowmore have been selling their wonderful home produced honey, and there have been home made jams and chutneys from the kitchen at IDEAs. Anyone who has something to sell, be it a couple of cabbages, some purple sprouting broccoli or half a dozen eggs could get involved (but please check first with the Estate Office to make sure they have room).

Another big step forward has been the ability to produce cured ham and bacon from Dunlossit porkers. The hams are provided whole and ready for cooking - then smothered in sugar or honey or whatever you fancy and given the final roast. All the hard work of salting and curing has been taken care of leaving just the finishing touches to your imagination. The bacon is ready to sizzle. The brutal reality of modern manufacturing and farming methods means that most of us have little idea what real bacon tastes like. So there is much to look forward to and perhaps experiment with in the New Year. I have made an early visit to the Farm Shop one of my many resolutions...

Tag: dunlossit meat islay market

This story was published with kind permission of the Ileach local newspaper.