JAHAMA Highland Estates (part of the GFG Alliance) is a multi-enterprise rural business operating over 114,000 acres of Lochaber and Badenoch. In January 2020, an innovative estate vision was implemented by a new management team in order to drive forward sustainable regeneration of the whole region, with environmental, economic and social resilience at its heart. In November 2020, responding to the impacts of the C-19 pandemic and local socio-economic issues, the Estate opened a new wild venison enterprise to reconnect people with place via accessible food, create employment and secure financial resilience for our sporting business, which produces the venison.
When JHE took over management of the Estate, the portfolio was in poor condition and lacked resilience. A full overhaul of all systems and assets was required and set in motion in late 2019, at the same time as creating the sustainable development vision. As part of this work, the sustainable use of sporting assets was identified as a key development area for the future. We had planned to begin processing part of our own annual deer cull in 2021 to sell direct to consumer, alongside implementing a complementary discounted community deer stalking initiative. The C-19 pandemic struck in March 2020, just four months after the new management team had taken over. Concerned by reports of game dealers in difficulty due to lack of demand in the hospitality sector, and being aware of potential issues with local food security (both supply chain and affordability for local people whose incomes had been impacted), we decided to bring forward our plans and launch both the community stalking and own-brand venison enterprise during the summer/autumn of 2020, in the midst of the pandemic. While this could have been considered a gamble, we felt that it was the right time to show direct support for local communities and to embed resilience in our own business by retaining a stronger element of control and profit margin for the end use of deer carcasses. We opened a pop-up ethical wild venison shop in a converted storage container, in Fort William, selling easy-cook products at affordable prices.