Founder of the East Neuk Salt Company, Darren Peattie hopes to raise £28,450 to resurrect the salt harvesting industry.
Originally from St Monans, Darren Peattie left the quaint fishing village at 17 with ‘smoke on his heels’ and worked in corporate finance in London before a move to Edinburgh then the north west Highlands.
It was when his second daughter came along that Darren said he felt a real pull to go home to the East Neuk.
“All the way through my life, I’ve felt like I was missing something. After the birth of my second daughter, Eliza, the feeling of home for me was very strong.
"I wanted my kids to have the childhood I had and go to the same school I went to, so eventually my wife agreed and we moved back to the East Neuk,”
Darren explains. “Honestly it was like an awakening, I came home and thought ‘that’s what has been missing’.”
Salt had been one of the main industries in many of these Fife villages, which developed from 12th century salt pans to big business between 16th and 19th centuries.
St Monans became one of the most important rural sites of the Industrial Revolution after Sir John Anstruther built a windmill to pump sea water from tidally-fed reservoirs into the salt pans.
The windmill still stands today, but Scotland’s salt production was largely wiped out after a repeal of salt duty in the 1820s with rock salt from the Continent rapidly flooding the market.
Like many other young people, Darren felt he had to leave at 17 due to lack of opportunities in the area, something which he’s keen to change with the East Neuk Salt Company.
The idea came to Darren when he was out exploring. “I was walking along the salt pans one day and I thought, ‘salt. That’s what we need to do – bring back the salt.’
"When I told my wife, she asked me if I was alright,” Darren laughs. “But we have a real heritage of salt here and we can tap into that when bringing it back as part of the food scene in Fife but also for education.”
For the last 14 months Darren has been working on bringing salt back to St Monans, including talking to Historic Environment Scotland about rebuilding the salt pan house as a visitor attraction and trying to find premises.
The height of the equipment for vacuum evaporation restricted where they could base themselves and eventually ruled out the East Neuk. Instead he found premises in Levenmouth, which, as Darren says, ‘needs a pick-me-up.’
“All the grade A waters are coming from the East Neuk but the industry, the real harvesting of salt, is in Leven, so I thought let’s invest there. The trains are coming back and it’s good for both areas, tourism and industry.
"That then led us on to the crowdfunder, which I want to be, not about me or my family, but about the food scene in the East Neuk,” says Darren.
“From the Dory Bistro to the fantastic butchers and seafood producers to the creme de la creme (and all round nice guy) Billy Boyter at the Michelin Starred The Cellar restaurant.”
It is these food producers and names that will be donating prizes to bigger investors but there is something for all price tags in the Crowdfunder, including £10 to pre-order a jar of Batch No.1 Salt.
Darren, who has always been interested in education and investing in young people, wants to continue this with East Neuk Salt, so a £30 or more donation can get a harvester’s club day out.
This is aimed at kids of 8-16 years old, and includes a full day learning about salt, the history and harvesting as well as pizza making.
Darren adds: “I want young people to feel ownership of the East Neuk Salt Company, because after all it’s theirs.
"I am the one doing the work at the moment but I want it to be theirs. I want people to be part of it and follow us on the journey and feel they can come in and learn. I want to promote the area to young people so they can be proud of their heritage."
Darren also hopes to eventually create a salt journey in Scotland to educate visitors of the salt producing past, teaming up with Blackthorn in Ayrshire and the Isle of Skye Salt Company as well as Waggonway in East Lothian.
The East Neuk Salt Company is aiming to be Scotland's most innovative salt harvester as it will be a zero waste business.
Darren explains: “We are left with 900 litres of distilled water a day and are looking at maybe turning that into drinking water but we have also had interest from the pharmaceutical industry, to sell to them.
"I am also looking at producing East Neuk Salt Company ice, made from the distilled sea water. Another byproduct is a magnesium concentrate - and that goes into the agricultural industry.
"We've partnered with a local farmer in the area, and we are going to get him all of the magnesium leftovers, and he will be able to put that on his land which will then enrich crops.”
To find out more about the East Neuk Salt Company and to donate, please visit their crowdfunding page.