Community / Research project commissioned to encourage locals to grow more oats

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SHETLAND Amenity Trust (SAT) says it has commissioned a research project with two local straw makers to understand more about the growing of traditional Shetland aets (oats) – and they are looking for the public to get involved.

The trust said the initiative is part of its “ongoing commitment to protect and promote” the critically endangered straw craft techniques using oat straw in Shetland.

In recent months there has been a renewed interest in straw crafts locally, with the Shetland Museum running a series of popular winter straw workshops. However, this renewed interest has highlighted concerns over procuring large quantities of oats to meet the demand.

Local straw experts Eve Eunson and Samantha Dennis, who have been running the latest workshops, will be leading the project.

Eunson said: “Samantha and I are really excited about the interest that is clearly out there for the future of straw crafts. We’re currently half-way through the third block of workshops; where we have seen an increase in the numbers of new learners, returnees and tutors.


“What is really exciting though is this new research project where we will be exploring the potential to grow more Shetland Aets locally, as without access to the materials, the craft cannot endure.

“Over the next few months we hope to gain a solid understanding of what is still being grown in Shetland and by whom and establish a bank of interested growers which we hope will include community groups with land available.

“We know that true Shetland Aets seed is very scarce, so it is important that we encourage people to grow the crop in a sustainable way free from any cross-pollination from other crops which may dilute the strain.

“This winter’s consultation will help us develop a strategy for how to encourage and support more growers for 2024 without risking the precariously low stock of original seed. We would ask anyone who is currently growing, or is interested in growing Shetland Aets to get in touch with us.”

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Shetland Amenity Trust’s Ailish Goodlad added: “Growing the aets is key to the sustainability of the craft. We are grateful to those who we currently get aets from, but to support the uptake in craft interest and to ensure the crop is preserved, more growers will be needed.

“This important research will form part of a broader project by SAT to understand more about traditional crops in Shetland and how their properties make them unique from other varieties of the same crop.

“Our long-term aim is to develop and grow traditional crops at the Crofthouse Museum site in Dunrossness. This is partly because we have a practical requirement for aets, as stocks are needed yearly to re-tekk [thatch] sections of the roof, but also we hope to make it part of a living history project at the site for future generations to understand and enjoy.”

Anyone interested in the project is asked to contact info@shetlandamenity.org or telephone 01595 694688.

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