Robert Sullivan of The Artisan Grower
Michelle and Robert Sullivan and family had no experience in growing when they decided to rent one acre of farmland near Insch, Aberdeenshire. In fact, Robert, a former business director in telecommunications, confesses that he had an “extreme dislike of mud”! However, a desire to be sustainable and live the agrarian lifestyle drove them to do their research and to submit to a process of trial and error.
Four years on, the Sullivans (aka: the Artisan Grower) were supplying around 36 hotels in Inverness, Aberdeen and Edinburgh with microgreens, edible flowers, fruit, and veg. A remarkable achievement from just one acre!
When Covid hit, and hotels closed, the enterprising couple began supplying the public with veg boxes – to the tune of 150 a week! The demand was so great that they had to supplement their produce with some Glasgow market fare.
After Covid, Robert and Michelle plan on returning to mostly supplying hotels, with maybe just 25-50 customer veg boxes a week – using only their home-grown produce.
The artisan grower is a completely veganic enterprise; no animal products are used on their land. They describe themselves as “better than organic” choosing to use none of the sprays that some organic regulatory bodies allow. They amend their soil throughout the season with alfalfa, rock dust (minerals come from rocks!), and seaweed! (see our case-example on kelp). They adhere to a rotational plan using cover crops tilled in as green manure.
Michelle and Robert start all their crops in a polytunnel and also use quick hoops (mini-polytunnels) for growing.
What, exactly, is the Artisan Grower growing? Microgreens are one of their year-round specialities. These wonder crops carry forty times more nutrients than their mature versions and are harvested at the cotyledon stage at just 2-3 weeks old. A wide variety of vegetables are suitable for microgreens; Rambo Radish is one of The Artisan Grower’s many enticing products!
Below is a list of the immense array of crops that the artisan grower produces. Amazing!
Rocket, Rainbow Chard, Spinach, Beetroot, Rainbow Beets, Carrots, Rainbow Carrots, Lettuce (Iceberg, Romaine & Butterhead), French Breakfast Radish, Easter Egg Radish, Salad Turnips, Mesclun Mix, Black Kale, Green Kale, Collard Greens, Cabbage Cauliflower, Calabrese, Sprouting Broccoli, Pak Choi, Cherry Tomatoes, Beef Tomatoes, San Marzano Tomatoes, Aubergine, Peppers (Red, Green & Yellow), Green & Yellow Courgettes, Butternut Squash, Cucumbers, Potatoes, Leeks, Onion (Brown & Red), Garlic & Spring Onions. Herbs – Basil, Coriander, Flat Parsley, Mint, Rosemary, Thyme, Tarragon & Savory. Fruit – Strawberries & Melons!
The artisan grower has been featured in Society Aberdeen, Sustainable Aberdeen, and in Pharrell Williams and Jay-Z’s inspiring video, “Entrepreneur”! Very well done, guys!
In terms of stock-free farming, the Artisan Grower proves that you don’t need a lot to make a lot! One acre can be used to develop a thriving business and this amazing array of nutritional gorgeousness; or, one acre can sustain half a dairy cow.
Which would you choose?
Michelle and Robert are upscaling from 1 acre to 10 acres. Read about it in the P&J.