It could be a cracking start to 2013 for the Uists with the revival of a industry which could provide free food, give families an income and even attract Royalty to the Western Isles.
Lochboisdale Amenity Trust (LAT), working in partnership with Oxfam, have been successful in securing funding of £32,576 from the Big Lottery Fund’s Village SOS fund to set up the Rent-a-Hen enterprise which could reignite the islands’ lost egg industry.
The project will include the set up of a packing station at Daliburgh on the site of the old library which will feature state-of-the-art machinery capable of sorting 1,000 eggs an hour.
The facility will create employment and offer islanders the opportunity to sell eggs and make a small income.
A spokesperson for the Amenity Trust explained: “The Amenity Trust is all about micro development and about helping individuals and crofters create a more sustainable income. For many crofters the only income they get is on two days a year at the sales. Production of eggs is a daily thing and it’s not just crofters but any one who has a small patch of land.”
They added: “A dozen eggs to buy at the moment cost about £4, some of them come from Poland or Hungary or anywhere in the EU. We are not giving the hens away, hens are given to you and then repaid through egg sales.
“Anyone interested in setting up will get the hens, they will get feed at a discount price and we are able to provide hens houses. In return we will provide a grading and packaging station.”
The Hebridean Free Range eggs would then be sold both on and off island and already there has been interest from many commercial outlets in the product.
It is hoped that the project will get up and running early in the new year.
Caluna Campbell, Oxfam’s South Uist officer said: “I think the Rent-a-Hen project is a fantastic initiative and really covers all areas, social enterprise, education, community participation and local economic growth.
“We are hoping for the future to expand this enterprise by using the chicken waste and turning it into fertiliser and start looking into creating a herb garden. This would sit nicely in the schools.
“The LAT are providing huge opportunities for the community and it is fantastic to see some positive energy being put into the Island.
The Amenity Trust’s idea for the project was hatched from looking back at the history of the island which once produced thousands of eggs per day. During the 1960s there was a packing station in Lochboisdale which was visited by HRH The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.
The modern day scheme is an exciting step for the Amenity Trust who only last month unveiled plans to create a sports facility and training centre also at Daliburgh School where they hope to create a community hub.
Anyone interested in finding out more about the project should contact the Amenity Trust on 01878 700202 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
They are also looking for a Project Manager for 20 hours a week and anyone interested should contact the Secretary as above.