Jim's tomatoes hailed as simply the best by Michelin-starred chef
The first crop at a pioneering tomato production site near Hawick was unveiled at its official launch this week.
Grower Jim Shanks and greenhouse manager Mark Wilkinson were joined by double Michelin-starred chef Andrew Fairlie at the official opening of the tomato farm at Standhill, near Minto.
The chef praised the work carried out over the last three years by the team and described their produce as “probably the best tomatoes I’ve tasted”.
The duo first revealed plans for the Standhill Farm project back in late 2013 and will now at last see their Annamay cocktail and Sweetelle baby plum tomatoes hit supermarket shelves this month under the Airdrie-based label Scotty Brand.
Jim, whose family have been dairy farmers at Standhill for over 60 years, said: “We are really lucky to have a home here.
“Four years ago, we started looking into renewable energy, and it took off from there.
“We are part of the local community, and I feel very proud of that.
“Above all, I think we create a fantastic product.”
Mark, originally from Melton, East Yorkshire, moved to the farm last October, bringing with him over 28 years’ experience in the industry.
He showed the Hawick News the crop, planted in January and expected to survive until November, inside the £2m bespoke greenhouse
He said: “We are after precision. If we get precision from every plant, we get continuous production of every plant.
“Each one of these single stems will grow another 15 metres in length by the end of the seed.
“The plants are grown in one-metre bags, so if we have a problem with this plant, it will only kill this bag and won’t spread to the next one.”
The project uses a sustainable, eco-friendly growing method, with water being supplied by rainfall with pollination carried out by bees living in hives with a life expectancy of 10 weeks.
The farm has been also been praised for creating 20 new jobs. Eight staff members each work 25 paths per day on a weekly cycle.
Four run the biogas plant from which the energy is provided via the cattle herd.
Perth-born Andrew, there for a tour of the greenhouse and to produce dishes using its produce to promote the new brand, said: “When I came down, I was actually fascinated to see the whole operation here, but I just think that everything, for me, ticked all the boxes that I’m interested in – the fact it’s environmentally friendly, the fact that it’s local, the fact that it’s grown in Scotland.
“I tasted the tomatoes for the first time on Saturday, and I know the season for them is really early, but they are probably the best tomatoes I’ve tasted. They are a fantastic product.”
The tomatoes will be available in Lidl, Morrison and Waitrose stores in Scotland between April and November.
Andrew, boss of Restaurant Andrew Fairlie at the Gleneagles Hotel and Resort in Auchterarder, Perthshire, added: “Scotland was once famous for growing tomatoes, and it’s good to see the industry back in production.”
A video of the farm can be seen on the Hawick News Facebook page at www.facebook.com/HawNews