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A history of berries in Blairgowrie

It's thanks to the perfect growing conditions and wonderfully fertile soil that Strathmore, the garden of Scotland, has been producing the most mouth-watering soft fruit for generations. The Scottish raspberry industry was born in Blairgowrie more than 100 years ago and the town is known as the berry capital of the UK, earning it the nickname 'Berry Town'.

Blairgowrie's berry farming industry began at the end of the 19th century when local solicitor, Mr J M Hodge (who once rented land from Thomas Thomson for raspberry growing) created the Blairgowrie and Rattray Fruitgrowers Association. This turned the tide of what had been a small scale cottage industry, helping it rapidly flourish into big business in the early part of the 20th century. In 1935 the company Blairgowrie Raspberry Growers was formed by local farmers, including Mr Thomson, to send fruit all over the country, later opening their own freezing factory in Dundee. The town's thriving soft fruit industry ran alongside its long established textile spinning mills, which ultimately ceased operation in 1979 with the closure of the Thomson mills.

Where once the fruit was picked by local people, in the years that passed the growing scale of the berry season drew increasing numbers of fruit pickers to Blairgowrie, among them families keen to earn money picking fruit while enjoying the countryside and Scotland’s travelling people. To house the pickers, corrugated iron buildings with wooden bunks were erected and in 1905 a settlement known as Tin City was established, which could accommodate around 1000 workers and boasted a grocer’s shop, post office and recreation room with piano.

A berry bright future

These days the berry season attracts a new generation of fruit picker with many coming from central Europe. Raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, redcurrants, aronia and gooseberries are produced using time-honoured skills together with cutting edge techniques. Polytunnels help to protect the delicate berries, while the latest research helps to reduce the use of pesticides without compromising the quality of the fruit.

Supported by Thomas Thomson, part of the work of the nearby internationally renowned James Hutton Institute (previously the Scottish Crop Research Institute) is dedicated to researching and developing new berry varieties and growing techniques, helping to continually strive for the best tasting berries in the world.

The proud, long standing tradition of berry farming in Blairgowrie is brought to you in every pot of BerryB, bursting with the goodness of real Scottish berries.

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