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Scottish Halibut Farmer Receives Top Food Award

by the Fish Site Editor
24 September 2009, at 1:00am

UK - Supermarket chain, Waitrose, has given its top award to Alastair Barge, who owns Gigha Halibut Scottish of Argyle in Scotland.

A Scottish halibut farmer who pioneered a sustainable alternative to endangered wild fish for more then a decade before perfecting his hatching methods, is Food Champion of the Year in the Country Living and Waitrose 'Made in Britain Award 2009', winning £10,000 and the chance to supply Waitrose supermarkets.

Alistair Barge, who owns Argyll fish company, Gigha Halibut – one of only two halibut farms in the UK – has been farming endangered Atlantic Halibut for the last four years on Gigha, one of the most southerly Hebrides and a community-owned island. The company now accounts for 80 per cent of all halibut produced in Scotland. The innovative, land-based fish farm is powered by the community-owned wind farm.

Mr Barge inherited his passion for farm fishing from his father, Ronal Barge, who pioneered land-based salmon farming near Loch Fyne in the 1970s. When Mr Barge joined his father, he decided to branch out into halibut and persevered for 14 years before managing to perfect his hatching methods. He started Gigha Halibut at a defunct salmon farm on an island that has been owned and run by its community since 2002. As part of his environmental commitment, he is installing a direct supply of renewable electricity from the island's own wind farm. Mr Barge's product gives fish-lovers the chance to enjoy a delicious, guilt-free supper.

Gigha Halibut, which won £10,000 in total, was chosen from five winners in the Country Living and Waitrose 'Made in Britain Awards' launched last year to promote the UK's small food and drink producers and to help Britain’s butchers, bakers, growers, brewers and cheese makers fast-track their produce onto the country's supermarket shelves.

The five winners, selected from 12 finalists, each win £5,000, and have the opportunity to work with Waitrose to see their product on the supermarket's shelves. They were announced in a ceremony on 19 September at the Royal County of Berkshire Show in Newbury.

The five winning companies, Gigha Halibut - Argyll, Alex Gooch's Organics - Powys, Durham Cow Cheese Company, Co Durham, Cairngorm Smokehouse – Highland and Trealy Farm Charcuterie - Monmouthshire were selected following a nationwide search for the best British food and drink producers demonstrating quality, innovation and use of traditional skills.

Editor of Country Living magazine, Susy Smith, said: "Food producers, like small businesses everywhere, need our help and custom right now. But it isn't difficult to put your money where your mouth is when the array of produce on offer is so tempting and tasty. Among our very worthy winners are new takes on traditional foods, the rediscovery of lost recipes and cooking methods, the saving of rare breeds and old varieties and the sustainable farming of meat and fish – buy these foods and you can eat wonderfully well while supporting artisan producers and the rural economy.

Buying from small producers also helps British farmers – the milk, fish, meat, fruit and cereals that make up the winning products in the 'Made in Britain Awards 2009' were all grown and raised here in the UK."

Congratulating Alistair Barge on his win, Jeremy Ryland-Langley, Waitrose Specialist Fish Buyer said: "The quality of this year's finalists has been incredible, and Gigha Halibut are testament to all that is great about our British food.

"A family business firmly rooted in its community, Gigha's impeccable farming standards and dedication to sustainability really are to be applauded, and I'm certain our customers throughout the UK will be hooked on their halibut."

Among the other finalists was Cairngorm Smokehouse in the Highlands for its roast-smoked organic brown trout and crowdie paté. Husband and wife team, Craig and Heather Ireland, have been farming fish for the last seven years. Specialising in breeding brown trout, salmon trout and salmon, they achieved organic certification two years ago. They decided to diversify from their hatchery and restocking business and began selling hot-smoked trout fillets. This led to the creation of their paté that caught the judges attention.

the Fish Site Editor