MOST of our family Easter Sunday lunch came from East Lothian, I’m happy to say.
The local lamb was acquired from the wonderful Gosford Bothy Farm Shop. I marinated the meat using a fabulous Moroccan recipe with herbs from my (sadly neglected) garden. My wife Angela’s Easter egg came from the Chocolate Tree, late of Haddington and now relocating production to the former Knowes Farm Shop outside East Linton. Finally, there was double cream at dessert, courtesy of Yester Farm Dairies. The diet starts soon.
It is a great privilege and adventure representing Scotland’s food basket in Parliament. Our new (and super-enthusiastic) generation of young farmers is struggling to supply the nation’s and Europe’s food needs while struggling with issues their predecessors never faced.
On the east of the county, new housing estates are springing up that abut directly on to some of our prime farm land. Personally, while we desperately need new housing stock, I think it’s a shame our most fertile land is being concreted over – with the uncertainties of Brexit, we may need to grow more of our own food.
It’s also important for new citizens to the county to learn more about how local farming works, if housing and agriculture are to co-exist in harmony. I think our schools could help in this respect.
Paradoxically, despite all this new building, local farm workers are being priced out of the local housing market, making it difficult to recruit labour. Here East Lothian Council needs to step into the breech, providing more social housing. The planners also need to take a more flexible view when it comes to allowing farmers to refurbish or build farm cottages for rent. Farming is a diversified business now and agri-tourism is a key ingredient in the local farm economy.
It’s an economy that’s booming thanks to enlightened support from the Scottish Government. Food and drink exports from Scotland hit a record £5.5bn last year, up £421m (eight per cent) in 2016. Exports to EU countries were worth £2.3bn, up £133m – a market under threat as a result of the Brexit vote. Whisky exports were alone worth £4bn, up £153m (four per cent) from 2015 – try East Lothian’s own Glenkinchie if you haven’t already. Happy Easter.