Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland
Horticulture (fresh chillis)
HORTICULTURE, DUMFRIES AND GALLOWAY: Sheena is on a mission to spice up Scottish taste buds by growing and selling chillies from her home near Wigtown in South West Scotland. She has also branched out into growing hardy herbs, including over 35 varieties of mint.
Most years she plants around 20 chilli varieties, including fiery Dorset Naga, citrusy Lemon Drop, Habanero, and Jalapeno. She uses the chillies in preserves which she sells to other businesses across Scotland. Any remaining plants are sold to the public. She also makes sure she keeps back a few Lemon Drops – one of her favourite chillies - to slice into a gin and tonic after a long day in the glasshouses.
Sheena is determined to make her business sustainable, so has reduced her plastic poly tunnels down to one, against six glasshouses, many of which are upcycled. Her peat-free compost is made from bracken and wool, chemicals are kept to a minimum, and plants are sold in biodegradable coir pots with biodegradable labels. She is now focusing on making her packaging plastic-free too.
Sheena is a farmer’s daughter and grew up on a beef and game-rearing farm just across the river from her current home. The farm wasn’t big enough to support both Sheena and her dad, so she left home at 17 to go to college and went on to work for the Scottish Department of Agriculture and Harrison and Hetherington, the UK's largest livestock trading company. She was seconded to the government’s Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs during the Foot and Mouth crisis and later became a wildlife adviser with Natural England.
Sheena took voluntary redundancy from Natural England in order to return home to Dumfries and Galloway and fully commit to her chilli business. She also runs a second business, a consultancy called Food from Farming which seeks to bridge the gap between production and consumption.
Sheena is passionate about reminding the livestock industry that farmers also produce fruit, vegetables and cereals. She believes the rise of vegan diets presents opportunities as well as challenges for British agriculture. She says: “I have to say that I get really annoyed and frustrated with the Veganuary and Februdairy chat on Twitter and further afield. I don’t think it is handled well by either side. Yes, farmers produce meat and dairy but we do a lot more besides.”
Chairs the local economic development group, trustee of Solway Firth Partnership and The Crichton Trust. Runs a second business, a consultancy called Food from Farming.
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