I’ve never been so inspired by a business as I was at Loch Arthur. Standing in front of the stunning wooden structure of the farm shop, I almost assumed it was the multi-million pound investment of a local businessperson. Yet the reality behind this exterior is much more rewarding.
Although the farm shop sprang up in November 2012, Loch Arthur has been in Beeswing for decades. This Camphill Community has been providing lodgings and work for adults with learning disabilities since the 1980s. In the past few years though, Barry Graham and his team have seen this social enterprise grow into one of the area’s most-loved local businesses.
As we wander around the farm shop — the sustainably-built building reminiscent of a barn conversion — Barry explains the ethos behind Loch Arthur. Products here must fit certain criteria: either they’re grown or made on site, or they’re organic, fair-trade or local. Occasionally they’ll make an exception for merchandise that’s ‘just too good!’ to turn down. Looking over the stuffed shelves, everything that’s not from Loch Arthur itself is clearly chosen with care. Organic cereals, fair-trade tea, raw chocolate and biological beauty products line the walls, but the real attraction here is the produce made right on site.
Even before the birth of its farm shop, Loch Arthur was winning accolades for farming and foodstuffs. In 2011, they received the Best Food Producer at the Radio 4 Food & Farming awards and their cheese has consistently come away with the goods at UK competitions. Although the creamery is further up the hill, the deli counter shows off the best of Loch Arthur’s produce. There’s also a viewing window into the butchery where experts prepare the organic meats and poultry.
Barry tells us that it’s not just the produce that keep people coming back: it’s also the atmosphere. There’s a couple near Glasgow, he explains, that return each week for their food shop and a coffee. They’re the regulars, tempted by chat, a chilled ambience and sustainable sustenance. Which, in this world of additives and imports, is becoming ever more significant — and rightly so! Not only does Loch Arthur champion healthy eating, but it also encourages love for what’s local. Perhaps it even reminds us that people are more important than profit and pound coins.