Led By The Land – How Gledpark venison achieved the Biosphere Certification Mark
For this week’s feature article we’d like to introduce you to one of our Proud Supporters and Biosphere Certification Mark holders, Gledpark. Led by owner-manager Rupert Shaw, Gledpark is a model red deer enterprise: a Park Assured Venison producer since 2014 and an exemplar of agricultural best practice, supporting the economy, landscape and biodiversity of our UNESCO Biosphere.
All photos here were taken by Team GSAB on our most recent visit to Gledpark, where we were thrilled to be taken on a guided deer safari – a unique activity for visitors to the Biosphere and fully bookable online. As you’ll note from the pictures, Gledpark’s land is hilly, rocky, and well covered with hawthorn, blackthorn and gorse. Landowners and land use managers who must direct the planning for and investment in this type of terrain might quite naturally be drawn to solutions that offer the clearest, quickest financial return, such as maximising acreage by clearing the types of trees and bushes that ‘don’t count’ in farming terms. Farming choices are never easy, and as in many other sectors, the push towards sustainability is often mitigated by the necessity to ‘follow the money’, whatever the ecological sentiments of the people involved.
Gledpark, however, took a much more holistic approach. From its inception, the enterprise has been shaped by its location: by the landscape and the native plants that grow here in the Borgue peninsula. The ‘woody browse and forbs’ that are so familiar in the region are nutritionally perfect for deer, thus deer became the principal focus of operations. (No, we didn’t know what a forb was either – click here to find out!)
The deer live outdoors all year, calving in the thickets each spring, and Team GSAB rather strained their eyes looking out for Biosphere bambis hidden in the hollows by their mums! It was a lovely morning off-roading along the tracks, benefiting from Rupert’s lifetime knowledge of the natural and archaeological heritage of his farm and the wider area of Borgue, and of course his years of experience in the husbandry of deer. As well as being active in NFU Scotland (mission: a sustainable and profitable future for Scottish agriculture), Gledpark has worked with a wide range of local and national partners from the RSPB to Wigtown Book Festival. Of course, their relationship with our UNESCO Biosphere is what we’re highlighting here: Gledpark was awarded the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere Certification mark in 2019 for its venison, recognising the way in which sustainability, environmental regard, and support for the local economy had been prioritised across all its operations.
As always we’re keeping a close eye on the rich (and ever growing) network of food enterprises across south-west Scotland: among others, Ayrshire Food Network, Food From Farming, and Dumfries & Galloway Sustainable Food Partnership are promoting and supporting not only the ‘eat local, shop local’ mentality but also striving to better the health of the regional food and drink sector, taking a forward-thinking approach that encompasses jobs, training, and regulatory awareness, fighting food poverty, and increasing public awareness of what makes our food systems good for both people and nature. One of the best things about these collectives is that they are community-led, able to run alongside national initiatives such as the Scottish Government’s partnership with the Scottish Tourism Alliance, investing in post-Covid recovery across tourism and hospitality sectors. As an organisation and as individuals who live in the GSA Biosphere, our team is eager to see local produce like Gledpark venison become more and more accessible to buyers. Isn’t it fantastic when you sit down with family or friends for a meal and you know exactly where what you’re eating was grown or reared – and even better if it hasn’t been freighted in? One of our goals for the Biosphere Certification Mark scheme is ‘more of this’: spreading the word and inspiring pride. Our food, hospitality and tourism industries are built on inspiration, celebration, and connections, and where better place for all of this to begin than in our beautiful UNESCO Biosphere? After all, #scotlandstartshere…
PS For more photos from Gledpark and regular updates about what’s going on at the farm (note – honey and gin are both involved), we recommend you follow their Instagram page; it gets a whole lotta likes from us!