There’s a quiet revolution in Fife that is seeing new businesses spring up on traditional farms, making use of restored buildings.
A few miles inland from the picturesque harbours of Pittenweem and St Monans, Comielaw has been restored by the local estate, Balcaskie. The farm business is the core: mixed-use farmland working with tenants and partners to produce quality beef, breeding sheep, wheat, barley, rapeseed oil, potatoes and farm vegetables. They are also a source of wild game and firewood.
But gone are the days when hundreds worked in the field. It has to be sustainable and, to that end, those working in and around Balcaskie are creating a new growing culture – nurturing a climate for business development that is not only providing economic opportunities for those in the community but is also attracting new talent to the area. The unique Comielaw is a development attracting highly skilled and passionate artists and entrepreneurs … generating rural employment to help sustain the area’s community.
Take Rory Dowling - a master craftsman who’s been making stringed instruments for well over a decade. His business – Taran Guitars – crafts guitars, mandolin and bouzouki. Ben Silk is an incredible woodworker “inspired” by his workshop in the old, converted milking shed describing it “a rustic setting that perfectly suits”. The lathe is at the heart of Ben’s work, creating modern products with traditional turning and woodworking skills.
The steading is also home for a unique studio, Tom Pigeon, designing prints, jewellery, metalwork and stationery - as well as taking on commissions and consultancy work. Photographer, Sean Dooley creates extraordinary works with him camera, exhibiting primarily across Scotland and the north of England – showcasing his skills that focus on portraits, landscapes and distilleries. The development is also home for The Gothenburg Experiment - specialising in the marketing of Stephen Marshall and Lucy Hine’s clients in the drinks’ industry. East Neuk Glass is a company created by artist Keny Drew, influenced by Scotland’s coast. Keny also runs a series of classes, courses and workshops at the Comielaw site.
Understanding the make-up and history of the area helps in getting to grips with the work that’s being delivered by the Balcaskie team. The estate is now in its fifth century under the same family ownership – and that family has had its roots in the East Neuk since the 12th century. Balcaskie is delivering what those living and working in the area see not as ‘a revolution’ but as natural ‘evolution’ … helping to sustain the local community and its people.