berry farm visit

Oliver and Ella recently paid a visit to the original home of Jamieson & Smith, Berry Farm which is located in Scalloway. We are working on an exciting project at the moment (more of that later!) so we are doing a bit of looking back and it was a fine day so we took a quick trip out.

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In writing this post I was trying to think of how to adequately explain the importance of Berry farm to J&S, and I think it’s best explained by Kate Davies from the introduction of our book Knit Real Shetland:

One fine summer morning in 1946, a truck set off from Berry Farm, Scalloway, with its driver, Magnie Halcrow, and a passenger, 15-year-old Eva Smith. It was Eva’s school holidays, but she wasn’t on a jaunt: her hands held a chequebook full of blank, signed cheques, and her head was full of pricing information.Eva had a job to do. Her father, John, had sent her to the village of Walls on Shetland’s West Mainland with instructions to buy wool. John was a livestock trader, an expert on his native Shetland Sheep and a skilled grader of fleeces; his nickname—Auld Sheepie—suggests the estimation in which his expertise was held. John had built up a reputation for sorting and grading during the 1930s and, by 1946, found himself in unprecedented demand. These were the years of the post-war knitwear boom and the industry placed high demands for uniformity on the producers of increasingly popular Shetland wool. From Berry Farm, John successfully graded fleeces for the consistency and quality the market required, then brokered the wool for processing and sale. By the late afternoon of that fine summer’s day in 1946, Eva had finished her work, and, with the truck laden with fleeces, set off back to Scalloway. She didn’t know it then but these were the beginnings of Jamieson & Smith Shetland Wool Brokers, which she would later run with her brother, Jim Smith

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This was a nostalgic trip for Oliver who first started working at Berry Farm in the summer of 1967 after spending 2 years at Agricultural College at Craibstone in Aberdeen. The founder of J&S, the late John Smith  was a farmer but also a dealer trading in all kind of livestock and agricultural produce including wool.

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In the winter months the farm labourers would work at sorting and packing the wool purchased by the Smith family, this helped with their employment as the winter was much quieter on the farm. As the company grew it moved into Lerwick where it started retailing knitting yarns spun from local Real Shetland wool. In 1967/68 Oliver spent half the working year on the farm and half in the wool store at Lerwick. Berry Farm was a very busy place in the 1960s/70s, with quite a large herd of Aberdeen Angus cattle as well as up to 1,000 sheep. We were lucky to see a new baby calf when we visited, Ella’s uncle James works at Berry so he took us around all the various sheds and byres.

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The green fields at the East side of Scalloway was where the arable crops were produced to feed the livestock. Hay, Corn and Turnips were the main crops produced and they were very labour intensive; there was also the battle to have the harvest in due to the short growing season and the very unpredictable Shetland weather. The Corn crop was harvested and brought into the farm where it was milled through a threshing machine then the oats were bruised ready to feed the livestock.

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Our history is extremely important to us at J&S and it’s always nice to go back and see where it all began. Jim, Eva and their family were a crucial part of how we came to be today and we like to think we still treat our crofters and customers with the same respect that we always have done since the 1930’s.

As we go into the lambing before our most important time – the Wool Season! we will be back with more photos from this busy time of  year in Shetland.

Happy Knitting x

9 thoughts on “berry farm visit

  1. Mary Planck Choberka April 28, 2016 / 5:25 pm

    Absolutely loved seeing this!

  2. shetlandhandknitter April 28, 2016 / 6:05 pm

    It is lovely to learn about the history of J & S, an interesting story. My own first recollections of J & S are of my parents having their sheep’s wool sent to ‘da brokers ‘, and my mother then some time later receiving a large bag. This had been dropped off at the croft gate by bus driver. It was full of lovely jumper weight wool – in natural shades. It was an annual thing, and mum used this wool to make jumpers, yoke cardigans and other lovely things using her knitting machine, or by hand knit in yokes or Fair Isle in gloves – all for family Christmas gifts.
    I think the crofters could choose to have some of their wool paid in this way, and/or also in money.

  3. sophy0075 April 28, 2016 / 6:54 pm

    Hooray for Eva! Hooray for her dad to entrust her with such responsibility.

  4. jemtext April 28, 2016 / 9:07 pm

    This has been a fascinating read and so good to know more of the background along with the pictures that help to imagine what is was like.

  5. Catherine April 29, 2016 / 12:55 am

    Such a lovely read. So important to have the history and know the roots of such an important industry and way of life of the Shetlanders. (I still have my colour swatch of Jamieson wool I wrote away for back in the 1970’s)

  6. Susan April 29, 2016 / 3:20 am

    How wonderful to read this and know the back story. Imagine Eva doing that job by herself! I too have a colour swatch fro the 80’s……really need a new one 🙂 Keep up the good work.

  7. Elaine April 29, 2016 / 11:10 pm

    Thank you so much, Ella, for sharing such history and beautiful pictures with us. I always look forward to your posts!

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