The Strathcarron Artisan Dairy Project.
West Highland Dairy is run by Kathy and David Biss, is located around 10 miles from LCDC’s main base. They produce a variety of cheeses and other dairy products for sale via their farm shop and local outlets. Cheese and Dairy product workshops are offered throughout the year. WHD also produce a variety of hard cheeses and mould ripened cheese which take 9 months to mature. Their premises are small and located within the curtilage of their own home. WHD regularly attended our market days, in 2014 they approached us explaining that they wished to retire within the next few years. They had worked hard to establish over 30 years their well-known brand, and wished to pass on their business and knowledge to a local organisation with an agricultural background West Highland Dairy currently produce a variety of cheeses, ice-cream, yoghurt, crème fraiche, preserves, butter, cheese based desserts. The fact that their premises are small limits the range of products they can produce after much discussion it was agreed to further investigate the idea – would it be feasible? Could we pull it off? Could we arrange the finance for a new build at Strathcarron – many ifs, buts and maybes?
HIE provided us with a small grant to allow for further investigation
Transferring the Business;
LCDC has land available for a new build, West Highland Dairy are willing to donate their business, customers, & brand name. Also much of their equipment, stock at cost, and remain on board as consultants for two years after the build is complete. They would train two cheesemakers to take over from them on retirement. WHD owners are heavily involved with the Cheesemakers Association of Scotland, within the next 2 years they wish to establish a Scottish School of Excellence – a perfect opportunity to provide such a facility at Strathcarron with on-site conference, catering and dairy.
Current Development Stage;
Planning permission has been granted for a new build on land owned by LCDC. £56k initial Development funding has been awarded by the Lottery Assets Fund to appoint a design team appointed (architect, QS, safety engineer, structural engineer, land surveyor). An application for Building Warrant approval was recently submitted. We are currently working through the Stage Two Strategic Plan for submission to the Lottery Assets team for the main funding. Other sources of funding are being investigated. The estimated capital costs are £1.8million plus vat. If successful we aim to complete the build by Spring 2018.
The Build incorporates;
* Artisan cheese manufacturing facility.
* Retail outlet for local produce – food and crafts.
* Café serving locally sourced artisan food with a Dairy viewing platform – 32 covers with additional decked area.
* Conference room – 12 covers.
* Office space/workshop for hire.
* overall the project will provide 12 jobs, a mixture of full time, part time, seasonal with a number of skilled appointments. It will be open all year around.
Potential revenue streams;
* Dairy produce – on-site and existing customers.
* Café sales.
* Retail sales – produce and crafts.
* Conference room customers – e.g. local businesses.
* Cheese making and Dairy related training workshops (1-3 days).
* Trade from the on-site existing 5 artisan businesses and Visit Scotland Information Point. The site is located on the North Coast 500 route and part of the Wester Ross Biosphere.
* Events and workshops.
PHASE TWO (post Year 2);
West Highland Dairy collects milk from Tain weekly using a small milk tanker pulled by a Land Rover.
The ultimate aim is to produce our own milk. Early negotiations with local crofters and two farm estates, all rearing cattle, show enthusiasm for such an initiative. The concept would involve 8-10 producers
rearing cattle suitable for the purpose, a mobile milking machine would call to the premises daily and collect the milk. In the past West Highland Dairy has used milk from cows, goats and their own flock of milk sheep.
Wendy Barrie, the Director of the Scottish Food Guide, together with her husband Bosse Dalgren, a Swedish heritage farmer, form part of our advisory team. Bosse has a huge amount of experience
working with low impact, heritage cattle breeds capable of producing the highest quality milk yield. Wendy has a wealth of marketing experience regularly in conversation with the top chefs, food outlets and restaurants such as Gleneagles and Harrods. West Highland Dairy and Wendy Barrie have worked together for a number of years.
We would particularly welcome along to our Dairy steering group, especially anyone with experience in the catering industry, project development and business financial projections.