Stirling High was a hive of activity on Thursday (6 June) as the local food community gathered for the launch of Alive with Local Food: a joint initiative, by Stirling Council and Forth Valley and Lomond Leader, to support and develop the local food sector.

Convener of Stirling Council’s Finance and Economy Committee, Cllr Margaret Brisley said: “The food and drink sector is recognised nationally as a growth sector which is why we decided to develop this exciting initiative.

“The transformation of the food economy across Stirling can deliver economic, social and environmental benefits, and it was ‘grate’ to see so many of the local success stories on show at the launch event.

“Working alongside our partners, our aim is to create more of these success stories through collaboration, supporting inclusive growth, innovation and by showcasing our distinct food culture.”

Chair of the Forth Valley and Lomond LEADER Group, Douglas Johnston explained the background to the strategy: “We put together this project because we could see that there were some great food and drink businesses in the area and with a bit of support, joint working and oversight of wider trends happening in Scotland – particularly in relation to tourism – more people might consider setting up food businesses in the area.  We see the strategy as just the first step to supporting people and businesses making the most of the high quality, natural larder we are so lucky to have in the Forth Valley and Lomond area.”

The strategy has also been welcomed by the Scottish Government.

Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy, Fergus Ewing said: “Alive with Local Food is a great initiative aimed at encouraging and growing the local food economy across the Forth Valley and Lomond Region. By improving skills and working to ensure that there is more local food on local plates, the initiative clearly demonstrates the important difference LEADER funding can make to the local rural economy.”

Four local food success stories were profiled at Thursday’s event, including a new project to create a community kitchen at 44 King Street – the building formerly occupied by Wilkies and now home to Made in Stirling.

Leading the project is local caterer, Sara MacMillan: “Our first focus is to create a community kitchen, cook school and social eating space to be used as a community resource. The response to this has been marvellous. We haven’t even opened yet and we’re already attracting people enquiring about classes. Next year we’ll be planting a tiny rooftop farm!”

Locals who popped along to the launch, were lucky enough to meet the high school’s young beekeepers and try out goodies baked with the school’s own honey. Local food tasters were also laid on by Stirling NeighbourFood’s producers to showcase the local larder, with everything from raspberry curd to beef shin chilli.

Kids and adults alike also enjoyed a host of free family friendly workshops from meeting the hens and planting veg to take home, to e-bike trials and beekeeping tips. The most popular event, however, was a mini flower crown making workshop using local flowers and willow from Tomnah’a Market Garden.

The winning entry of a competition to design a poster for this year’s Forth Valley Food Festival (11-20 October) was also unveiled. (Winning team pictured L-R Stirling High Pupils Jocelin Currie, Emma Mitchell, Kyla Routledge, Jenna O’May and Amee Robertson. As well as Kenzie McGuigan not pictured.) The winning design will be used to promote this year’s event.

The full strategy can be viewed online here.