it comes to fresh food, Unst is literally right at the
end of the road. Food is transported to Britain, then
up to Aberdeen, then overnight on the ferry from Aberdeen
to Lerwick, then on a two-hour road trip involving two
more ferries to get to the local shops. No-one really
knows when their food was harvested, nor indeed how it
From an initiative launched by Sarah
McBurnie (of See
Shetland Tours), a few like-minded people got together
with the specific aim of growing as wide a range as possible
of chemical-free fruit, herbs, salad and vegetable produce.
This loose co-operative has evolved
to become the URGE, as we had the 'urge' to do something
about our ability to eat fresh food with a known provenance
and to incorporate as much recyclable material into the
enterprise as possible, thereby keeping our costs and
carbon footprint to a minimum.
Initially, we expected to grow a bit
more than enough food for our own tables, with any surplus
being sold at the local Farmers' Market.
An early start was made growing basic
varieties on various odd plots and undercover. A local
landowner allowed U.R.G.E the free use of an old overgrown
walled area for a season (2007), on which we built raised
beds protected by fishing net covers to keep out birds
and butterflies. We had barely made a start when we were
approached by several individuals and establishments asking
for fresh vegetables to be supplied to them! In order
to meet this demand, it was realised that operations would
need to be greatly expanded.
We identified an unused piece of land
behind Nikkavord Lea in Baltasound belonging to the local
council who, when approached, agreed to our request to
buy the land. This was the worst piece of land imaginable
- it had no soil of any kind, an abundance of rock, and
could only be described as extremely marginal. It was
definitely NOT agricultural land.
We came to our true beginnings as U.R.G.E.
Nikkavord Lea early in 2008. March 2008 saw the polytunnel
being erected in wet and
windy conditions, the raised
beds being constructed, and the new plots dug over. The
process can be seen in photo form on other pages.
finally managed to buy the land in January 2009. We are
slowly transforming the landscape, creating new soil as
we go from animal manures, compost, seaweed, wood chips
and grass cuttings. The development will take years but
we're all up for the challenge.
group has obtained "society" status with Sutton
Seeds, which has enabled us to purchase seeds at a
greatly discounted price. Sutton's have also provided
advice on which varieties they think could be successful
Anyone buying U.R.G.E produce knows
that it was harvested only hours before they get it, has
ripened naturally, tastes better and that its shelf life
will be longer. People on Unst can now eat chemical-free,
truly fresh food with a minimal carbon footprint.