Lanarkshire Larder will support local producers

A rural leadership programme attended by a local business woman has resulted in a new collective being formed for local producers.

Project co-ordinator Gillian Rae (left) and chairwoman Selina Cairns.

Lanarkshire Larder, which will work as an umbrella group for food and drink businesses across the region, was the brainchild of Errington Cheese director Selina Cairns.

With 33 paid up members already signed up, it appears the collective has been founded at the perfect time.

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Selina explained: “I was doing a rural leadership programme with Scottish Enterprise, aimed at helping businesses recover from the pandemic. That’s when the idea for a regional produce group first came to me.

"There are so many wonderful food and drink producers in the Lanarkshire area but there’s never been a group working together on their behalf.

"During the pandemic, people have been far more mindful of where their produce comes from and local producers and farm shops have benefited from that.

“We want to harness that support as the area builds back from the pandemic and give these businesses a collective voice.

“Working together to promote all the amazing produce created here in Lanarkshire can only be a good thing – we think the initiative is perfectly timed.”

A robust business plan persuaded government and industry collaborative body Scotland Food and Drink to award Lanarkshire Larder a grant of £10,000 – an amount that was jointly match funded by North and South Lanarkshire Councils.

This enabled Lanarkshire Larder to appoint project co-ordinator, Gillian Rae, who has a wealth of experience in travel and tourism, and to create its own branding.

In addition, it recently received £5000 from the Scottish Government’s Regional Food Fund which the group used to launch its new website this week at www.lanarkshirelarder.com.

Selina and Gillian are also working on ambitious plans for the future.

"North Lanarkshire College is keen to get involved so we can work with some of its students,” said Selina.

"It can be hard to encourage young people to come into the industry, particularly as many of our businesses are quite rural.

"By working with the college, we hope to change that picture and support local entrepreneurs of the future.”

Members are also looking forward to brighter days ahead as the area slowly starts to emerge from the challenges of a global pandemic.

Selina added: “There’s so much we can achieve as a formalised group.

"Even just having an informal chat can open up opportunities for extra sales that members possibly haven’t considered.

"It’s incredible the amount of produce that is being created here in Lanarkshire and we need to shout about that. Once it’s safe to do so, we plan to stage events to do just that.”

In the meantime, the group already has one celebrity champion in the form of Michelin-starred chef Graham Cheevers, who recently opened restaurant Unalome in Glasgow. Among the suppliers he is showcasing are Errington Cheese and MacDuff Beef.

Producers who want to join should email [email protected]