A Visit to Sandness

by Misa Hay -

I've been trying to grow vegetables and fruit here in Shetland for a few years now (and still learning) so the prospect of visiting Penny and Alan from Transition Turriefield was really exciting. Quite often, when around Sandness area on the west side of Shetland, we'd stop at the croft's gate to find out what goodies, apart from eggs, are in the lovely white box. In the past we sampled some of their delicious salad leaves, cabbage, leeks, tatties and even celeriac. And my son Jan is always thrilled when there is a little box of quail eggs which he loves.

After planning the visit for a while, on Friday I finally headed west to meet Penny and Alan and to find out where and how they grow their produce. Transition Turriefield was established as a Community Interest Company in January 2011. Turriefield is the name of the croft where Penny and Alan are based and the Transition part is their contribution to what we can do on a local scale to tackle the global problems of climate change, rising food prices and diminishing supplies of cheap fuel.

The whole of last week looked like spring had arrived however Friday brought us back to reality with gale force winds and horizontal rain. Not the best day for exploring growing conditions outside but in the end it turned out to be an amazing experience. I was thoroughly inspired by the hard work and persistence of Penny, Alan and their volunteers in turning a relatively unpromising patch of land into a very productive smallholding. All their produce is grown on an ever-expanding plot of land and they also have a couple of polytunnels made from redundant salmon cage pipes and a small solar tunnel that I have a great experience with (will talk about that another time).

Most of the produce is sold through a popular vegetable box scheme and at the moment Penny and Alan are supplying 25 customers on the Westside on a weekly basis. This year they are hoping to be able to expand the scheme but currently there is a waiting list, which I also put my name on as I would love to get their lovely fresh vegetables, fruit and eggs delivered to the door.

And there are some interesting plans for the next few months as after three years of producing and selling food from their croft in Sandness, in 2013 Transition Turriefield were successful in securing a Climate Challenge Fund grant to support the development of their Carbon Classroom initiative. The project is supporting local residents and communities to reduce their carbon foot prints by growing more of their own food, making better buying choices, reducing food waste and composting more. Penny said they will be running “grow your own” training courses, local food events, open days at the croft and workshops with schools and community groups.

And finally here is the exciting news - Penny and Alan will be contributing to this blog on a regular basis and will be bringing you handy tips and inspiration for growing your own produce so watch this space. To keep up to date with their growing progress this season check their Facebook page.

Lastly here's my little twist on the classic pesto recipe using some overwintered leaves and herbs from our solar tunnel.

Parsley and Spinach Pesto

Course: Main

Servings: 1 jar

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 2 minutes

  • Parsley - 1 large handful (flat leaf or curly)
  • Spinach - 1 large handful
  • Hazelnuts - 1 handful
  • Garlic - 2 cloves
  • Lemon - 1 (juice only)
  • Olive oil - 5 tbsp (extra virgin)
  • Salt and pepper -
  1. Wash the leaves and herbs. Peel the garlic and juice the lemon.
  2. Put all the ingredients in a food processor and blitz to the required consistency of your choice.
  3. Put the pesto into a jar and cover with a little extra oil, then seal and store in the fridge. It will keep in a fridge for up to two weeks.
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