The Artisan Grower near Kirkton in Aberdeenshire will move five miles up the road to their new 10-acre farm which will be housed on Pittodrie House Hotel Estate.
Established by Robert and Michelle Sullivan, the husband and wife team will move their one-acre operation to the Macdonald Pittodrie House Hotel at Chapel of Garioch where they will base their veganic veg operation from.
Tasked with reviving the hotel grounds’ historic walled garden, the husband and wife team are looking forward to the move which will allow their business to double its current production within the first few months.
Michelle said: “We’re moving the whole farm over to a new site which is around five miles up the road. It will be quite the endeavour and we’ll have to move all of our polytunnels, too, so it will be a lot of work. We’ll be doing this while servicing customers as well. It will be challenging but so worth it.
“This is the first time we’ve ever moved the farm. We’ll take the tunnels down and thankfully they are moveable, so that is quite handy. Robert actually builds them from scratch and he gets scaffolding pipes and has a special bender which he purchased from America. He bends his hoops, buys and gets the plastic roped on and does everything himself.”
But it isn’t just a case of moving from one location to another, Robert and Michelle have to prepare the fields on the estate they will be incorporating into the farm space to be able to get produce growing as quickly as possible.
Michelle added: “Going into a new field is really starting from scratch. We’ll have to plough and all that. We don’t plough every year as we tend to maintain our plots all year round so we’re going to have to plough what we’ll be using to start off with, rotavate that with a tractor to break up the soil, and then we’ll maintain it and sort out the beds.
“We’ll be constantly sowing them, carpeting them when they’re not in use, and amending them. It is a lot of work. We’ll go from one acre to 10 acres.”
A once in a lifetime opportunity, Michelle and Robert have been overwhelmed with the support from Pittodrie House Hotel and are looking forward to this next chapter in their business’ life.
“We got a phone call from the CEO of Macdonald Pittodrie House Hotel out of the blue saying that they would love it if we could grow for them. They had this vision in their mind about what they wanted it to be like.
“They are landowners and have 2,400 acres of land and they mentioned about leasing the land to us so we could farm on the site. It was amazing.
“We were praying to find some land as we’ve been looking for a while now and we’re delighted that they got in touch. Mr Macdonald, who co-owns the land with Mr Smith, is just the kindest and most generous man. We got to pick what we wanted which was just incredible. They have given us a five-year lease and we hope to start moving over very soon.
“Moving will be a gradual process. Once we have the lease all tied up we’ll be able to do some more permanent work, but until then it is in progress and maybe we can get it ploughed and get the deer fencing sorted out.
“We aim to have around two acres in production so we’ll be doubling straight away. Next season we’ll get the tractor in and get the other parts ploughed. I think we’ll just take on part of the plot for now instead of doing it all at once.
“In the meantime we’re getting all the soil tested and getting as much as we can done before officially moving over.”
Tara O’Neill, CEO of Macdonald Hotels and Resorts, is delighted to have the business on board and is looking forward to welcoming Pittodrie House Hotel’s new residents in the coming months.
She added: “We think what Michelle and Robert have achieved at The Artisan Grower is fantastic and we are delighted to be able to help them grow their business.
“The health of the worlds soil is the answer to many of our climate challenges today and supporting bio diverse farming is critical. Together with Mr Smith we are delighted to welcome The Artisan Grower onto the Pittodrie estate and look forward to watching their business thrive.”
As part of the deal, The Artisan Grower will look to revive the walled garden at the four-star hotel, and bring guests on a garden to plate journey which will see some of the kitchen staff present the produce on dishes being served in the dining room.
Michelle said: “They have a walled garden there and have asked us if we can do something with it for them. They want to make it more accessible to the general public so we’re trying to think what we can do.
“We’re not sure if we should put strawberries in there and people could come and pick their own, or maybe we’d grow some flowers and they could come and make up their own bouquets. We just want to attract more people to it as it is such a beautiful spot. It is a listed building, the walled garden, and there will be an access point to the farm from it, too.”
Recently launching a new arm to the business, a juicing range joins their already popular veganic veg boxes and will also be based on the premises, bringing the full operation under the one umbrella.
She added: “We juice ourselves and do it all the time and thought our customers might love it as much as we do. It is a lot of work to juice all of the fruit and veg and it has done very week the past few weeks since we launched the concept.
“We’ll move the juicing operation and the microgreens over too. We plan on getting old shipping containers and cover them with reclaimed wood or palettes. We’ll put our logo on it and in one of the shipping containers we’ll process the veg that comes out of the farm so it will have a wash station, packing station and a cold room area. In another, there will be an area for staff, and we’ll have a section for the microgreens and a section for processing the juices. That’s the vision.
“We’ve had wholesale enquiries from a local catering company and we’ll be servicing Pittodrie House, too. It will be such a lovely story to tell. They will have this sort of market garden on their estate and they can buy some of the products for their kitchen and customers will be able to have a gander down to the farm to see where the produce has come from.”