- U.R.G.E. and fresh garden produce for UNST -
"   'SIC’s Environment Forum were in awe' ...   "
   When 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 was grown.

   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. at 13 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.

   We 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.

   The 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 on Shetland.

   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.


Website Design & Development by:
Philip Andrews
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© U.R.G.E. 2007-2011

Website last updated on:
08 Dec 2011
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