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Jo Mackenzie: Summer sunshine and farm shop changes at Rootfield

Jo with some of the cattle on the farm.
Jo with some of the cattle on the farm.

Since the end of term we’ve been so lucky with the weather and it’s been great for outside activity days and al fresco play dates – for the kids and grownups alike.

The Rootfield girls have been enjoying being outside, too.

Thanks to the hot dry weather, the new paddock grazing platform has however been a bit short of grass with Nick and Scott having to supplement with buffer feed to keep the cows milking well.

On a more positive note, herd numbers look set to be bolstered with Nick achieving good results from artificial insemination with sexed semen (female offspring guaranteed), and the calf igloos and pens are filling up with cute calves – always popular with customers visiting the honesty shop and vending machines.

While the ice cream and milk vending continue to attract our loyal regulars, we are looking to add more local produce to our chilled vending machine which currently houses eggs, honey, butter, cheeses, rapeseed oil, proper coffee and luxury hot chocolate mix alongside our natural yoghurt, my botanical soaps and little tins of ‘super balm’.

Jo’s husband Nick has had success when using sexed semen on the cows at Rootfield.

We think a fruity chutney or pickle would complement the cheeses, or perhaps an apple sauce to accompany the pork, and are now slightly regretting our recent cull of apple and plum trees from our garden.

Having been here possibly decades longer than we have, the fruit harvest quality from the trees has been deteriorating over the past few years.

We will plant more in the autumn, but until they fruit, we are hoping my green-fingered Mum won’t mind if we harvest some of her abundant crops of both apples and plums from her bountiful coastal garden.

The relocation of our self-service farm shop has taken another small step forward recently with the arrival of a pre-loved container after months of delays.

We have chosen a picturesque site just below the bottom shed and only half-way up the farm drive, which should mean less wear and tear on the rest of the drive as well as less traffic on the farm itself.

During the first lockdown the shop became so popular Nick quickly introduced a one-way drive through system which has remained in place to help maintain Covid safe measures.

However, this means that customers must drive through the middle of the farm – not ideal for them or farm staff – and during particularly busy periods queues block the top sheds where straw and feed supplies are stored.

The farm’s ice cream is popular with customers to its self-service shop.

The new location will address these issues as well as allowing us to provide better parking facilities and some outside tables for those who want to enjoy their ice cream before they leave – we often spy folk eating it in their cars or perched on a gate and sometimes cyclists hunkered down on the grassy verge at the end of the drive.

Yet despite being fitted with floor to ceiling glazed double doors affording panoramic views of Ben Wyvis and at the moment, the cows grazing, our 20-foot long container is in need of a major makeover, which we hope will get underway soon.

The plan is to clad it outside and fully line it inside before adding our branding, moving the fridges and freezers in and the all-important farm made and locally crafted produce. Potentially, however, there could be further delays because of the national shortage of building materials.

We appreciate that everyone’s in the same situation though and it’s much worse for those waiting on houses, community projects or school buildings being finished.

As ever, we are feeling lucky to live where we do and are grateful for the continued support of long term and new customers – at the farm and in the wider hospitality community.

  • Jo lives at Rootfield Farm in the Black Isle with Nick, daughters Daisy and Mollie, and 120 dairy cows. They run the Black Isle Dairy.

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