The proof in the forage with the local company Udny
When Liz Campbell was growing up, she quickly learned a valuable lesson on the family farm: nothing was wasted.
Her mother, who Liz describes as a “typical farmer’s wife,” ensured that a use was found for everything from fruit boiled into jam to zucchini made into pickles.
Liz has since traded her childhood home in Kent for the equally magnificent Aberdeenshire, but not before an exciting career in Australia as a conservationist.
Having become a parent herself, she wanted to combine her passion for sustainable development and the great outdoors, with the flexibility to be there for her children.
And if she made money with such a business, well, that was a bonus.
Her local business, Udny Provender, did more than earn a few cents, and Liz’s produce is now stocked at Barra Berries Farm Shop in Oldmeldrum and Nature’s Larder in Aberdeen.
And while the business is now run from her home in Methlick, it really was in Udny that it all started when Liz started her business six years ago.
A buzz about the place
She now sells Aberdeenshire honey, flavored vinegars and handcrafted shrubs, which makes for a wonderful blend.
Liz’s bees forage millions of flowers in the family apiaries of northern Aberdeenshire, with clear flower honey and late summer heather honey.
Popular vinegars are made with local fruits, herbs, and flowers, while artisan shrubs are fruit and vinegar-based cordials, which can even be used for making cocktails.
That’s quite an accomplishment for a busy mom, born out of a pure love of the outdoors.
We went for a taste of the good life and discovered why local products could be the key to helping the environment.
Don’t waste, don’t want
“Udny Provender is run by myself and my husband, Ewan,” Liz said.
He takes care of beekeeping because I am actually allergic to bee stings, it was not part of the business plan.
“I grew up on a farm in Kent and my mother was a typical farmer’s wife.
“She helped my dad, had her own job and also ran her own garden where she raised chickens.
“It was instilled in me from an early age, you should never let anything go to waste.
You must use the resources at your disposal.
Liz has a doctorate in conservation biology and then worked at a zoo in Australia.
“When I had my kids, I wasn’t ready to go back to work when they were little,” she says.
“I felt that meant that the pressure was very strong on my husband to make all the money.”
The couple started with a few beehives and Liz decided to sell honey at the nursery party.
“People loved honey and vinegars were a different type of product,” she said.
“I started to think that maybe I could do it and got advice from Business Gateway.
Vinegars come in six different flavors, including blackberry cider and hot pepper.
Liz then branched out into artisan shrubs, which are cordials made from fruit and vinegar.
“I had never heard of it before and not many people know what they are,” she said.
“It may take a bit of persuasion to drink something made with vinegar, but they are delicious.”
The business started at Liz’s kitchen table, before she moved to a separate kitchen in the family home, although still there.
“It was chaos with the kids getting ready for school, but that’s how we started,” she said.
“Our honey is in season as the bees only make it when the weather is nice.
“We will be extracting our first harvest of the year next week.
We also take our bees to the heather so we have another harvest in late fall. “
“I started making vinegar from the fruits that I grew myself, but now I also buy fruits.
“I can make raspberry vinegar all year round while the raspberries are freezing, but elderflower is much more seasonal. “
The lockdown has been good for the company, although Liz was originally concerned that she might not be able to sell any products.
“All the farmers’ markets where I normally sell were obviously canceled, so I started offering local delivery,” she said.
“The local independent stores that stock my products have also become very busy.
“Then when the markets reopened I think people felt they were a safe option because everything was out there.
“I also think people have made a real, concentrated effort to support local businesses, and I hope that mindset stays with people.
The good life
Before Covid, Liz also offered school tours with the aim of educating young people about the importance of bees.
“There has always been that part of me that loves the outdoors and the vegetable patch in the garden,” she said.
“I love wildlife and biodiversity, and now I have my own wildflower meadow.
“I live a lifestyle that I really enjoy, even if it can be exhausting at times.”
“I feel very lucky to always have honey at home.
The hope is to continue as we are, I am not trying to take over the world.
“I love what I do though, and I think the Udny Provender sums me up.
“He has that old-fashioned feel, that’s how I see myself.
“It just clicked.”
1) The most underrated fruit?
Gooseberries. They’re so delicious, tangy, tangy, and sweet, and really versatile, but tend to get overlooked.
2) If you were a drink, what would you be and why?
Aha, it depends what mood I’m in! A warm honey and lemon, because I am sweet, comforting and easy to relax, although sometimes I would like to be more of a champagne cocktail!
3) What is a basic element for your kitchen cabinets?
Aside from bread flour, which I consume by the ton, we always have hot sauces in our cupboards, especially Het Het from Singularity Sauce.
4) Secret tips from the bottling profession?
I wish! I always bottle everything by hand, and it’s a pretty mundane process, so my best advice is to create a great song playlist while you’re doing it. I tend to sing the powerful ballads.
5) Worse experience with making your own products?
The worst is also one of the best things. It’s the seasonality of it all.
I love watching the seasons change, but it also means a lot of things can’t be put off.
So it may be 10:30 p.m., and you may have just finished extracting 100 kg of honey, but you cannot finish for the day because you still have 15 kg of strawberries to process.
There was also the time when the quince paste I was making exploded and coated the kitchen ceiling….
6) Best honey match?
It’s hard to look past runny honey drizzled with porridge or thick honey spread over freshly baked bread, but I think my favorite pairing is with Manchego cheese (or similar), figs and patties. oats.
7) You must sell one of your products to a politician. Which would you choose and why?
Honey, of course, to soften their words.