Duke sees agricultural innovation firsthand
The Duke’s visit, as the Prince of Wales is known in Scotland, follows a meeting at Birkhall Estate almost a year ago with Castleton Farm owners Ross and Anna Mitchell.
During the October meeting, Ross and Anna spoke to the Duke, as well as other local farmers and food producers, about how they had adapted the business during the Covid pandemic. The thriving family business of Castleton Farm grows and supplies berries, manufactures food products, and operates a cafe and farm shop.
The Duke’s interest in rural communities and the health of the agricultural sector was evident as he visited the business that sits at the heart of Howe of the Mearns.
With over 1,200 acres of arable land, over 400 acres are planted with berries. The company harvests nine months of the year and is the northernmost commercial blueberry farm in the world.
The duke was shown the blueberry tunnels, the picking was in full swing. This is the peak of the Scottish blueberry season which continues until the end of November. He also visited the cherry orchard where he saw the only fresh cherries currently harvested in the world.
He was then guided through the custom built packing station where all berries are refrigerated, packaged and labeled before being distributed to retailers across the UK.
Last year, Castleton Farm picked and packaged 8.5 million trays of premium Scottish berries. They supply major supermarkets in the UK, with the majority of fruit going to Marks & Spencer, Tesco, Waitrose and Lidl.
Owner and farmer Ross Mitchell said: â€œAt Castleton Farm, we produce the best traditional Scottish berries, which are grown, picked and processed on our family farm. We grow premium strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and cherries. But we are more than just fruit. Always looking to the future, we are diversifying and adapting to changes in the food industry.
â€œWe aim to grow profitably, but ethically and environmentally sustainable, which we know is a concept The Duke is very committed to. We are an agricultural company that transports its products to the market, truly from the field to the plate.
From the farm, the Duke moved on to the newly expanded farm shop and cafe, where he met longtime members of the Castleton team and sampled some of the traditional Scottish produce on offer.
Anna Mitchell said: â€œIt was great to be able to share and celebrate the taste and quality of Scotland with The Duke, and to show our range of fruit, preserves, home cooked meals and pastries. The team were also very excited about our royal visitor. Castleton Farm is a family business because the Castleton team is our family.
â€œAnd on a family farm where everything is done on site, we appreciate how much working together and taking care of each other helps us go further. This was really brought to light during the pandemic. And with the Duke’s interest in how the business has survived and adapted.