Grow Your Own – Damhead Organic Farm

What do you do when you love good food but can’t find anywhere to buy it? Answer? Start your own organic farm. At least that’s just what Sue and James Gerard did, on a former orchard on the slopes of the Pentland Hills.

the Family from Damhead Organic FarmSince 1989, Damhead Organic Farm has grown into a thriving family business with both daughters and sons in law active in different areas of the enterprise. Sue herself now takes care of the online sales side of the business. Son in law Mark McRitchie showed me round – his area is the retail side, while his brother in law Steve manages the home delivery side.Mark McRitchie

The farm is located on seven acres of former orchard, between Ikea and Hillend and the farm shop is simply an Aladdin’s cave of wonderful, mouth-watering temptation.
Seven acres is not enough to satisfy demand but cabbages, spinach, kale, tomatoes, sweetcorn and herbs are all grown on the premises, with other farmers supplying potatoes and other crops. Only where necessary will foodstuffs be sourced further away or overseas, with a recent addition to the deli counter being olives from Greece.

the greenhouse at Damhead Organic FarmAs you would expect, a sensible box scheme is available, with boxes priced from £10 for fresh, seasonable organic goods. The website gives information about delivery days in various areas and there is also the option of having an order couriered further away.

With over 3000 lines, the online shop is a great success for those who like to pick and choose specific items or add other healthy products to their boxes. Box scheme customers and the online business have created such a demand that the wholesale part of the business has almost been sidelined, with Steve organising deliveries.

There is a farm shop as visitors still like to drop in to the real thing. Carefully sourced meat, fruit and veg are kept in the purpose designed chill room and, inaddition to the grocery lines, you can buy healthy cleaning products and refills of washing up liquid.

On advice from their grower (not a relation!) the family have planted 5000 trees forming new shelter belts and the recent planting of soft fruit bushes and apple trees will be a welcome addition to the range in a few years’ time. Also coming soon is a cafe and a play area – well, there are four grandchildren now and although Mark’s four year old loves helping to stack shelves, there are laws about employing under age workers!

inside the shop at Damhead Organic Farm

With consumers nowadays being more knowledgeable and more concerned about the quality of the food that goes on the table, business is doing very nicely thank you. It is even set to expand – now that’s not something most farmers will tell you. Mark has an alcohol licence, offering a range of organic wines, beers and spirits.

With customers coming from as far away as Dundee and the Borders, and thoughtful TV chefs adding to the demand by alerting people to the importance of good, healthy food, this business has a great future. That’s just as well, because those grandchildren are growing up fast.

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Suse Coon

Suse Coon started life training to be an architect but ended up as a fashion buyer then civil servant. After some time out to bring up her family of three, she returned to what had been a hobby and entered the field of freelance journalism. After becoming regional correspondent, then editor of the orienteering magazine CompassSport, she formed Pages Editorial & Publishing Services. In this guise, West Lothian Life was launched, while Suse maintained a level of freelancing and wrote the award winning children's novel Richard's Castle. In 1999, Suse bought over CompassSport and found her time taken up pretty well exclusively with the two magazines. In 2004, West Lothian Life was expanded to form Lothian Life, however, the workload was too great. In 2006, CompassSport was sold and Suse concentrated on the web version of Lothian Life. Her hobbies include gardening, orienteering, sea kayaking and Tai Chi.

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