UK: Pandemic helped local plant grower to flourish

Over the last five years, Da Barn has become one of Shetland’s premier suppliers of local plants after opening in 2017.
One of Hillswick’s hidden gems, the company operates a number of polytunnels located from an exposed position but sheltered by a barn. Husband and wife team James and Carol Titcomb set up the operation in 2017 with an original plan of selling a few plants, but it’s expanded into far more. They also grow a variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables such as strawberries, tomatoes, courgettes, and onions.

When the pandemic struck early in 2020, James’ first thought was that he had to “put everything in the compost.” However, since they kept receiving parcels, he had the innovative idea of delivering plants for free around Shetland and, to support that service, set up their website.

He said: “I realized we were still getting Amazon deliveries and thought, ‘hang on, we can do that as well.’ The original plan of selling a few plants developed into something much bigger. “I basically ran around Shetland all of 2020, delivering plants in our own vehicles, and that showed us we could do a lot more. It also gave us the money to expand and add on two more polytunnels.”

Now they sell plants via the website, which are delivered via an electric van rented from Northmavine Community Development Company (NCDC). They also stock plants in various stores around Shetland and sell via their website.

The entire setup is an aquaponics-based system in which fish tanks provide vital nutrients for the plants. There are fish tanks with pumps that bring the water to the growing beds of plants.

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