Can you tell us a bit about your business?

Jenny McKerr runs a small livestock farm near Forth, South Lanarkshire and is the founder of The Wee Farm Distillery. Established in 2018, The Wee Farm Distillery produces small batch, hand crafted, rural Scottish Gin.  Distilling, bottling, labelling and dispatching all take place on the farm and the distillery opens its gin shop to the public regularly.  The local landscape and Scotland’s long and rich agricultural history are an inspiration for developing the unique Gin recipes with Drovers, Clydesdale and Farmer Strength gin all proving popular.

How has the Coronavirus crisis impacted your business so far?

2020 was the year to grow the gin business and we got off to a good start by having a very successful time at Scotland’s Speciality Trade Fair at the SEC in Glasgow, where our Drovers Gin won gold in the drinks category.  In March, when the toilet roll panic was on, gin sales were non existent and there was a massive uncertainty whether the business could continue.  As a diverse farm business, we got on with the next job which was lambing at the time and then we realised the extent of the hand sanitiser crisis after a chat with Natalie Reid at the Gin Cooperative.

How has your business needed to evolve and change to operate in this environment?

We were not selling gin and had hundreds of litres of ethanol in stock.  The Scottish Distillers Association were very proactive and pulled distillers together on a WhatsApp chat to share knowledge and overcome some of the hand sanitiser production / procurement hurdles. It was invaluable.  We started producing hand sanitiser by the end of March.  For every one we sold, we gave one away to local key workers including retail staff, bin men, police, carers and nurses.  We set up a drive through collection from the farm to ensure distances were respected.  I was proud to be able to do something positive in a time of worry and contribute to the fantastic community spirit that Forth has.

We also took part in online gin tastings hosted by Jaro Design in Strathaven.  Miniature sample packs were dispatched to customers beforehand then we all met on zoom from the distillery to chat about the gins and brand story – it was a bit like gin gogglebox!  It was a fantastic way to meet new consumers and a real treat to look forward to during lockdown.  We also collaborated with other local gin producers (Biggar, McLeans, Pentland Hills, Inspirited) and Jaro Design hosted ‘The Lanarkshire Big 5 Gin Tasting’ which was great fun and another display of camaraderie from the Scottish distillers.

Has it presented opportunities which you would not otherwise have considered?

As a diverse working farm, there’s always opportunities, it’s just finding the funds to keep progressing.  We had a longer term plan to renovate a cottage on the farm but due to lockdown we started it ourselves along with some trades who were furloughed at the time.  Food and drink tourism is a huge opportunity as we want to welcome people to stay at the Distillers Cottage, experience farming life, enjoy gin tastings and eventually our homegrown Scotch wagyu beef and native lamb.

Finally, how are you celebrating this Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight?

Hopefully with some Native and Wild fillet steak, fresh vegetables from Craigies and a Drovers Gin of course!  I’ll continue to source locally where possible and highlight the great produce from other local food and drink businesses.