Offering unique products could help boost Scilly’s food and retail economy, as long as shoppers understand and support the extra challenges of production.
That’s the view of farmer, retailer and Islands’ Partnership Board member, Jon May.
Jon has been rearing rare breeds at Peninnis Farm, including nine red ruby cattle and thirty Oxford sandy and black pigs.
He chose that breed because they’re docile and appear to enjoy interaction with the guests at the campsite, who he says are always interested to hear about the local food story.
Jon says there’s been a move towards local production nationally and the islands’ have enjoyed some notable successes by following that trend.
Scilly’s population size means it’s not always possible to compete commercially with the bigger mainland suppliers, even when you remove the transport costs.
But Jon believes there are added benefits, other than quality, that should be part of the Scilly produce sales message.
Rare breeds provide additional interest for consumers, while supporting the maintenance of that breed. And he says the animals lead a good life, not being shut in a dark room or a pen for months.
However, there are reasons they’re rare, he says. Often they produce smaller litters or less meat than the larger commercial breeds.
Jon says if islanders could consider buying more from island retailers it would have positive knock on effects. Although it might not be the cheapest, it provides an opportunity for the community to support one another, he says.