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Cheese pantry overwhelmed by support from local customers

Monday, 20 April 2020 Scotland Food & Drink Industry news

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A small business owner based near Inverness has spoken about how overwhelmed they have been by the support of their customers since the lockdown began last month.

Jill Clark, Co-Owner at Connage Highland Dairy, spoke to the OnFarm Podcast about the effect that the Coronavirus has had on their business, and how they are working hard to adapt to the changes in order to ensure the business can continue to run.

Speaking to Jill about the topics covered on the podcast, she said:

“We’ve been so touched by the support we have received from customers, both locally and across the country. There have been some big changes here – we are doing a lot of the local deliveries ourselves and unfortunately, we’ve had no choice but to furlough most of the staff, so we’re operating with a skeleton crew at the moment!”
“It’s so hard for everyone at the moment, and we know that all small businesses are in the same boat, so it means a lot to us that people are making the effort to support us. We know we have to be patient and optimistic about the situation and know that one day we will come out the other side of this, but there have been some positives to come out of it as well.”
“We have been able to chat with a lot of our customers on the phone, so it’s great to speak to them and check in on how they’re doing. We have a weekly catch up with the staff too – I miss them a lot!”

The team at Connage has been working hard to ensure the business adapts to the current climate.

“We have made the move to put a lot more products online, something we have been meaning to do for a while, so we have more cheeses available in our online shop and these are refreshed and updated every day.”
“As social distancing became the norm, we decided to launch our call and collect scheme, which we’ve called ‘One toot and your order’s oot!’ Customers can call the shop and place an order, and we will arrange a collection time with them when they can pull into the car park, toot their horn, and their order will be brought out to their car.”
“The biggest change is something we were hoping to be able to unveil earlier in the year, but the Scottish weather had other ideas! We are going to be installing a couple of vending machines at Connage, so people can come and buy produce whenever they need it. The plan is to have a vending machine for milk, and one for cheese and seasonal produce.”

Like many other small businesses, Jill and the team at Connage Highland Dairy are hoping the support from the local community continues after the lockdown has ended.

“I think this has taught us a lot about patience, and the patience that you need to shop local. It’s also reiterated the importance of connection and how small businesses can be a lifeline to those who are maybe a bit lonely, or who can’t get out often.”

Connage Highland Dairy produce cheese from the milk of their herd of dairy cows, which graze the luscious clover pastures along the Moray Firth. Their shop, both at the Cheese Pantry and online, stocks their own cheeses as well as other cheeses from across Scotland and further afield.

“I try to source cheeses that you wouldn’t normally be able to find in the supermarket to give people a bit of variety!” says Jill.

You can listen to the full conversation with Jill at http://www.podfollow.com/onfarm

Launched in January 2020, OnFARM showcases rural enterprise, rural community, rural creativity, rural charity, rural history and much, much more.

OnFARM gives rural areas a stronger voice and a new platform from which to share their wonderful and inspiring stories. As the weeks, months and years go on, OnFARM will be speaking with individuals, businesses and organisations, telling their story and raising the profile of rural Scotland (and Britain!) and the people, ingenuity and businesses which make it so special. OnFARM is the perfect place for us all to learn more about what ‘grows’ on in the countryside.

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