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High Life Highland and Swanson partnership helps reduce food miles in Inverness during coronavirus lockdown

By Val Sweeney

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Magnus Swanson collects the produce.
Magnus Swanson collects the produce.

An Inverness gardening project for vulnerable adults which was facing closure last year has been helping to reduce food miles during the coronavirus lockdown.

The Garden, Recycling, Organic and Wildlife (Grow) project is based at Inverness Botanic Gardens and Nursery where High Life Highland staff have been finding new ways to make sure the project's locally-grown produce is put to good use.

They have teamed up with Highland food wholesaler Swansons to supply home-grown salad and vegetables for inclusion in veg boxes which are available online for delivery in the Inverness area.

Inverness Botanic Gardens and Nursery Manager Ewan Mackintosh said: “We had been looking at developing ways to support the Grow project and finding new routes to market for their home grown produce.

"The current situation across the country has accelerated these plans resulting in the partnership with Swansons.

"The feedback so far has been excellent, and we are delighted for the trainees.”

Any money generated from the salad and vegetables will be reinvested in supporting the Grow Project.

Although the initial arrangement has been put in place during lockdown, discussions are already taking place to look at the potential for a longer-term sustainable partnership to be developed as life returns to normal.

Magnus Swanson managing director of Swansons, said as a local family business which had been hit hard by the coronavirus lockdown, they were happy to help a local charity by buying salad and sending it out in the online veg boxes to customers in the Inverness area.

"We are delighted with the exceptional quality and variety of the produce and we have had great feedback from our regular veg box customers who appreciate the low food miles and freshness of the produce," he said.

"We are keen to continue working with the Grow project and to use more of their salads, vegetables and herbs as they come into season.”

The Grow project has been running for 22 years at Inverness Botanic Gardens and was faced with potential closure in May last year following a reduction in the amount of financial support from its previous funder.

Thanks to Inverness businessman David Sutherland and his wife Anne who stepped in pledging £20,000 in support, it was saved ensuring that it has been able to continue.

“I have seen how much the trainees enjoy their outdoor work and learning and it would have been a tragedy if the project had been lost,” Mr Sutherland said.

“My wife and I are really pleased to have been able to support the project and we are delighted to see that their hard work is being rewarded in this way allowing local people to enjoy the produce.”

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