When a fire ripped through the mill at the heart of their family business – Oats of Alford – the Medlocks were determined to carry on.
Just eight months on from the “devastating” incident they launched a new range of organic gluten-free oat products, Honest Oats.
It’s proved a huge success and now they have taken the decision to branch out even further and farm organic Scottish chickens at their base at Mains of Haulkerton, near Laurencekirk.
Michael Medlock, who created the concept for Honest Oats, has always been involved in the business but it was in September last year he turned to an active day-to-day, hands-on role in the farm after working in the oil industry.
It was his parents, John and Carol, who acquired the mill near Alford, in 1998, where they processed around 18 tonnes a year of their own oats.
It is thought there has been a mill at Montgarrie on the Esson burn for around 800 years. However, disaster struck in April last year when the building burned down .
Mike, 38, said: “It totally devastated the milling side of the mill which was mainly made of wood unfortunately. It was truly devastating for us as we had never been as busy really.”
It was truly devastating for us as we had never been as busy really.”
The Medlock family are third generation farmers and and have been farming organically for more than 35 years.
They have been in oats for 40 years, and started by processing and selling oats to the top stables in the country for race horses.
Although the oats are no longer ground by stone as at the old mill, they are still dried in the original flat bed kiln, which escaped the fire, at Montgarrie just outside Alford.
Mike, dad to Skye, 8, and Matilda, 5, said: “The kiln give our oats a unique nutty aroma and taste.
“But there are no nuts anywhere near our oats.
“The oats are then brought back to our farm for milling into the specific grades of porridge oats, oatmeal or oat flour. They are then packaged and shipped off around the UK, Ireland and Spain.
“We support a number of organic farmers in the north-east by giving them an outlet for their oats, and offer a premium due to the oats being gluten-free.
“We have to inspect every field prior to them being cut to accept the oats.
“The Honest Oats brand has done well and we are really encouraged by the number of repeat orders we are seeing which is great. Everybody seems to love them.”
Now, the business is also turning its attention to organic chickens.
Mike said: “We used to rear organic chicken here on the farm for the supermarkets. But with there being only one major poultry processing plant in Scotland, they made the decision in 2019 to stop all commercial organic Scottish chicken.
“We have taken the decision to place organic chickens again and process them here on our farm ourselves.
“The chicken will be available from the end of July and we hope to supply local butchers and attend farmers markets to sell through.”
Mike has thrown his weight behind the North East Now campaign, which has made it easy for people to support local firms from a wide range of industries during the pandemic.
The initiative is driven by Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce (AGCC) and backed by creative agency Hampton and Aberdeen Journals.
Mike said: “I think the website is really well put together and a very relevant place for information.
“I think this is a great place to see and show the amount of amazing products we have right here in the north-est, and the variety of foods stuff we can produce here.”
For further information on Oatmeal of Alford, visit www.oatmealofalford.com
To find out more about North-East Now, visit https://www.northeastnow.scot/
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