This weekend was the annual Isle of Man Food Festival, held in the grounds of the Villa Marina and showcased some of the best of Manx produce, together with hourly demonstrations using local produce and local talent. This year’s guest chefs were Henry and Albert Baker (the Fabulous Baker boys) who had everyone laughing at their antics. Henry remarked on how lucky we are to live on an island with such top quality produce, and that we should support our farmers and producers and buy local, and I could not agree more. We do not add the organic tags to our food, it is just good home-grown stuff.
Historically our little island has first and foremost been a farming and fishing community, and in the days before progress and the growth of tourism, local folk relied on a bit of crofting and fishing to get by. The main staples were herring, barley, vegetables and a bit of lamb or meat which is reflected in some of our traditional meals.
Today some of the industries that have grown and become established replace that of the ‘herring industry’ for the which the island became known. ‘Queenies’, a locally harvested scallop, are the ‘new kipper’, and a rare breed sheep, the Loughton have become established as a delicacy. Even local beef is being used to create Manx Biltong, which is a dried spiced beef and a South African treat. We seem to have moved away from some of the more common seafood and meat in order to capture a slightly more exotic market as well as our own, and the export market has become more established.
I wandered around and chatted where I could to local producers. I was speaking to a local grain farmer who showed me the different grains grown and described their uses. Some of the barley was used in the beer industry and strangely is a very popular product ! He explained that there were only ten local grain producers supplying our own flour Mills in Laxey, as the quality that was required for flour was extremely high. This flour is now used local businesses, hotels and the general public.
If you visit Laxey to see the Great Laxey Wheel, then take a walk through the village. You can view Laxey Glen Mill, a beautiful industrial building from the bridge near the Glen. In 1860 Robert Casement, who designed and built the Laxey wheel was commissioned by the mines manager Captain Richard Rowe to build the mill as a larger one was required with the growth of the mining community and is still producing flour today. Captain Rowe was a remarkable man, and responsible for a great deal of improvements in Laxey to grow the mining industry.
Although we are an island that has many business sectors , we are primarily a farming and rural community and that is one of the joys of visiting this little island. To stand and see miles of fields, edged with stone built walls and gorse hedging, which turns the island into a sea of gold during the spring.