Our islands’ amazing foodie producers
For a group of islands that hosts a resident population of just 2,300 people, the Isles of Scilly boasts an extraordinary array of award-winning producers and foody entrepreneurs. Food miles here are almost non-existent, with most of the produce staying right here and consumed on the islands.
Succulent strawberries, luscious lobster, Bryher bangers, infused gins, and spiced salt – these are just a handful of Scilly’s incredible array of local produce stocked across the islands’ shops and delis or enjoyed in our delightful cafes and restaurants.
Meet some of our islands’ producers…
Andrew Walder, SC Salt: Inspired by 18th Century methods
Like all teenagers, I left the islands at 16 to continue my education. But after several expeditions far and wide, I was determined to return to St. Martin’s and help run the family farm. Diversification was the crux to making it work.
Inspiration arrived in the form of Scilly’s fantastic natural environment – our crystal clear sea water, the purest of sea air and warm sunshine. It’s all the raw materials I required, alongside a book I found on the internet by Willian Brownrigg, written in 1748, entitled “The art of making common salt - as now practised in most parts of the world”.
Experiments ensued in 2009 followed soon after with our first batch of SC Salt. It’s produced and packaged authentically, by hand. Sea water is pumped from the sea, its course filtered and then solar evaporated in open salt pans in polytunnels right by the shore. Our island location and traditional methods make it special.
Colin Jenkins, Longstone lobster fisherman: A life-time love affair with the sea
My love of fishing began as a child. Like most Scillonians back then, my grandparents earned a living from farming and fishing. When I was young, my father began to operate a passenger boat business on the islands. He was busy most days, so my granddad, would take me out to check his pots for lobsters, crabs and crayfish, and put down lines for Pollack and mackerel – whatever was out there.
I loved fishing then and I love it now. I joined a commercial crew as soon as I left school, then took a short break before buying my own boats and pots about eight years ago. Now, amongst others, I supply our family-run café at Longstone.
Nothing beats the outdoor lifestyle and the open water, heading out towards the Western Rocks at 5am on a summer’s morning to haul up my pots, breathing in the fresh air and enjoying the solitude. I couldn’t live any other way.
Graham Eggins, Hillside Farm Bryher: Living the island dream
After 14 years of family holidays on Scilly and a yearning to relocate forever, a chance glance in Farmers’ Weekly gave Graham and Ruth Eggins, and their children, the perfect opportunity – to run Hillside Farm.
“To have 40 acres of my own on Bryher, plus 140 more to graze, and to be self-sufficient is a dream come true. We keep Saddleback pigs, Red Ruby cows, 220 laying hens, honey bees and a couple of ponies. We also grow our own vegetables, adding new varieties every year including the sweetest (and secret variety of) strawberries, other soft fruits and asparagus.
“Everything we grow and produce we sell directly from our farm gate and any surplus is snapped up here on Bryher by Hell Bay hotel or across the water on Tresco.
“Most mornings I’m up at 4am but it’s not hard work when you love what you do.”
Aiden Hicks, Westward Farm: Infused gins from St. Agnes
My family has been running Westward Farm since the 1700s. The youngest son of the youngest son has taken it on for the last seven generations probably because the older children traditionally went off to war or left to be pilots or lighthouse keepers, leaving the youngest to help out at home.
When potatoes and flowers became less viable, my parents, like all farmers on Scilly, were forced to diversify. My mum has always loved essential oils, and took the plunge to grow them on St. Agnes to use in soaps and beauty products.
In fact it was a chance comment by mum – that her rose geranium would be amazing in gin – that led me to research what might be possible - and the rest is history!
Our Scilly gin uses a classic mixture of fine botanicals and water distilled from our own bore hole. We then flavour our other gins with chamomile and elderberry, rose geranium, honey, even gorse – all grown on Westward Farm.