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Keeping up with the Community

These past few weeks have been an exciting time for the Crossroads Community Hub community outreach team.

Project Coordinator, Stacey, and Community Food Workers Gemma and Julie have been working hard growing and strengthening our network of partners. Working with individuals and organisations, our help in the community is far-reaching.

Working Together

We work weekly with the kids from Annbank Community Association, having weekly sessions where we give advice on healthy eating and teach food preparation skills. This year we even worked with them to make healthy Halloween party treats! In the new year we will be having weekly cooking classes with them, teaching them how to prepare healthy meals. A great little foodie session within this rural community!

Working monthly with Patchwork Recovery Community in Kilmarnock, we attend their lady’s group. Here, we provide cooking demonstrations with recipes the ladies have specially requested. Our food workers will also be teaching the attendees to produce their own creations. This group is a really fun interactive session, and the food workers always enjoy their visits to Patchwork.

Our Work with the NHS and East Ayrshire CVO

East Ayrshire Housing Support Assistants use us as their first port of call when they receive emergency referrals and need food support. We have also been working with the Community Connector and the DOT Hub, both provided by East Ayrshire CVO. The Community Connector works with socially isolated people, and she regularly signposts individuals to our groups. This is one of the main objectives of our groups – combatting potential isolation. This can often go hand-in-hand with the need for food support which we also provide. This has been a great partnership and we’re so pleased that she recommends us so highly. 

Working with an NHS Addictions Peer Recovery Worker, our Darvel Hub team facilitate a weekly peer recovery group for her clients in the Irvine Valley area. This group is proving to be of great importance to the clients. Our Community Food Worker is always on had to provide any food support needed or just a wee tasty treat!  It’s a very positive, busy, weekly group.

Current Work and Continuing Into 2022

Able to start our own groups again, we relaunched our Coffee & Craft Monday group and our Wednesday Soup Group. Some of our regulars have been attending these groups since before the pandemic and were delighted to see them up and running again. We also welcomed several new faces to these weekly groups. We have paused these groups until the new year, with everyone’s safety and comfort a top priority.

Our emergency food provision has, of course, continued, and we even whipped up a cracking Christmas Dinner! We wanted to bring a little bit of joy to the people we help during a time of year that can often be difficult. This is a huge part of the support we provide, and we will continue to do so into 2022.

We now also have our breakfast stall outside the Darvel Hub, providing water and fresh fruit. Set up for school commuting times, we offer local pupils something healthy before the start of the school day. The easily accessible stall means schoolkids can help themselves on the way past.

Our work with FareShare is still ongoing, with our stall set out twice a week in Darvel and once at the DOT Centre in Newmilns. Morrisons kindly donate food twice a month which we give out from our Darvel Hub. And to date, we have had 298 collections from Tesco, which is the equivalent to 46,224 meals for people in the community. By not sending this food to landfill, we have saved 62,030kg of CO2!

We can’t wait to carry on working within the Irvine Valley community in 2022. And we’re excited to see what other partnerships and initiatives the future brings!

coffee cup

Opening the doors to our community groups

With a gradual and safe return to some sense of normality, we are delighted to announce that our community groups are able to get back up and running!

Over the years our Darvel Hub has played host to a whole range of creative, crafty, and cake-tastic groups! Inclusive and welcoming, we invite the Irvine Valley public to pop in and see what we’re up to. From social clubs to craft classes to handy breakfast stalls, our Hub will be a busy little place. From Monday to Friday, we will run our groups – new and old – from the centre of Darvel. And this is all on top of our continued work with FareShare and our emergency meal provision!

What’s Happening at the Hub?

Monday mornings will see us host Craft & Coffee, where you can enjoy a hot drink and some creativity in a relaxed atmosphere. We want the Hub to be somewhere that people can feel comfortable when meeting new and old friends. Our Soup Club on Wednesday afternoons will offer a similarly comfortable setting for a casual catch up.

Sometimes there’s no time for the kids to grab breakfast before leaving the house for school in the morning. And that’s where our breakfast stalls come in handy! Set up outside the Hub during the week, our stalls are stocked with healthy snacks and drinks that are easy to grab and eat on the way to school. Free and easy to pick up, we want the local school pupils to always have time for breakfast.

And it’s not just food groups that we will host at the Darvel Hub but health and wellbeing groups too. We will regularly be leading walking groups throughout the local area. A chance to get some steps in, take in your surroundings or just meet up for a gentle walk with others.

Pop in and see us!

We have our groups set up for those looking for something to do on a regular basis. But we will also have an open door at various points through the week. That way, anyone who wants to grab a tea or coffee, or would like to know more about what the charity can do, can come and have a chat. We understand that it’s important to make it as easy as possible for people to make a connection with us. To see what’s on, have a look at the Events page on our website, or keep an eye out on what’s posted in our window at West Main Street, Darvel.

and at Ayrshire Food Hub, Crossroads…

Meanwhile, at our new Hub at Crossroads, a variety of other community groups will be taking place. The Crossroads Community Choir have already begun their practice sessions and are keen for others to join. We will also play host to a number of groups and meets aimed at parents, professionals, and others within the local community.

Again, keep up with all the goings on by having a look at our Events page.

Our doors are open, and we look forward to hosting you all.

Morton's milk bottle

Morton’s Milk – “Producing high-quality milk for the local community seemed like the perfect fit”


Brand Name: Morton’s Milk

Name of owner(s)/manager(s): David and Gillian Morton

Product(s): Morton’s Milk

Location: Morton’s Milk Farm Shop – Auchinbay Farm & the Ayrshire Food Hub

For the creamiest scrambled eggs, frothiest cappuccinos, and silky-smooth milkshakes, farm-fresh milk makes all the difference. Morton’s Milk from Ochiltree, East Ayrshire, is home to 260 free-range dairy cows, milked three times a day, guaranteeing freshness and fantastic flavour. Established in 2020, this family business has succeeded through the pandemic, owing to a clear and close adherence to their belief that “quality is key”.

Morton's reusable glass milk bottle
There’s something vintage about a glass milk bottle

Tell us a bit about what you do

Morton’s Milk is a family run business situated in Ochiltree East Ayrshire. Situated at Auchinbay Farm, we milk 260 dairy cows, three times a day. Our cows are free-range and graze on lush green grass for around six months of the year. The milk produced is pasteurised onsite and is non-homogenised to give our customers a great taste experience. Morton’s Milk Farm Shop sells our semi-skimmed and whole milk through a self-serve vending machine system along with a fantastic range of fresh local produce and tasty, sweet treats.

How did the business come about?

As a family we have always been interested in diversifying. We live in the heart of the Ayrshire Milk field, producing high quality milk for the local community seemed like a perfect fit. As Gillian has worked in the food industry throughout her career, she has always been keen to open a farm shop. Combining farm fresh milk and locally-sourced quality produce was the perfect combination. Morton’s Milk Farm Shop then became a reality through our acceptance of a Scottish Leader Grant.

What traits have been essential to the success of your business and why?

Quality is key. Providing customers with our “Simply Delicious” semi-skimmed and whole milk along with selling the very best produce from local suppliers in the farm shop.

Morton's Milk vending machine
David at Ayrshire Food Hub with one of their vending machines and some fresh milkshakes

What is your daily work schedule?

The farm shop is open from 7am-9pm daily. Our cows are milked at 3:30am, 12 o’clock and 7pm. Pasteurisation of both whole and semi-skimmed milk is done daily and then placed in our milk vending machines at both our Farm Shop and the Ayrshire Food Hub Farm Shop.

What challenges have you faced?

Being a new business during the Covid pandemic provided challenges in ensuring both our customers and family were safe. 

What do you like most about what you do and why?

Providing high-quality products to the local community and receiving fantastic feedback from our customers makes all the hard work worthwhile. Morton’s Milk Farm Shop and our vending machine system are new concepts. Customer’s love shopping in a different way!

Milk vending machine at Ayrshire Food Hub
Gillian delivering milk first thing in the morning

How does Scotland or Scottishness affect your work?

It is key that the Farm Shop stocks the best of local Ayrshire produce, along with quality products from across Scotland. Currently we stock products from 26 Ayrshire suppliers.

What serving suggestions would you give to customers who have bought your product?

Milk is best served chilled.

Find out more about Mortons’ Milk and their amazing products at:



Community Work in The Valley

You might have noticed that we’ve been a little busier these past couple of months at the Hub. We have been keeping you up to date with all the news around our café and farm shop… but that’s not all we do. Our community work is the foundation of Crossroads Community Hub and Ayrshire Food Hub.

Things have changed since the days of one community worker at a time being allowed in our Darvel Hub to do all the cooking themselves!

What’s cookin’?

We have had some new additions to our community outreach team over the past few months. Joining Gemma S in the Darvel kitchen are Stacey – our Project Manager, and Julie – our new Community Food Worker. Stacey arrives with 20 years’ experience working in the charity sector and has led a range of classes in the community. As well as coming on board with ourselves, Julie will continue her work with Dementia Friendly Prestwick.

Gemma S has been with us for nearly 2 years now. She is a well-kent face who has held the fort at the Darvel Hub and delivered many a meal. This is the team that will be cooking and delivering the thousands of meals that we distribute throughout the Irvine Valley.

Nutritious and well-balanced, we design our selection of premade meals to be comforting and satisfying. Offering people proper meals throughout their week can really help take a lot of pressure off. We want to reach out to anyone who is in danger of becoming in any way isolated, or just those who could do with a helping hand.

Along with our emergency meals, we will be recommencing our work with Darvel Area Regeneration Team (DART). Together, we make up recipe packs that beginner cooks can pick up for free at the Darvel Hub. By encouraging people to prepare and cook meals from scratch we can improve cooking skills and knowledge of nutrition. As well as the recipe cards included in the kits, we produce videos for YouTube – for those who are more visual learners.

Continuing to work with our partners

Throughout lockdown, we have continued working with our partners, including the schools and nurseries in the local area. Part of this work has been the tending to polytunnels and growing beds – somewhere that pupils can learn the growing and harvesting process. We also extend our meal provision to places that families have easy access to – such as these schools and nurseries.

Our community outreach team is currently preparing classes to lead, centred around the growing, preparing and cooking of good food. Our aim is not just to be a supplier of food, but a trusted educational source. If we can deliver classes and groups that give people more knowledge of the food that they eat, it can help improve eating habits and add to cooking skillsets.

Project Manager Stacey delivering to Darvel Nursery

By offering classes and other forms of help that look at every aspect of food and nutrition, we think we have the best chance of reaching as many people as possible with our work. Once schools go back and restrictions are allowed to safely ease, we can really connect with the community around us. Whether you see our wee van nipping around town, or one of our team making their deliveries, we hope to become the known and trusted food charity that’s here to help.

Our first month in the café

The café’s first month has been a great success and we are busy with the buzz of customers.

The café reflects our ethos of supporting local, and we use plenty of our farm shop stock in our dishes. Our suppliers provide us with products that we are proud to use in the breakfasts and lunches we serve.

Our classically trained chef and his team take local ingredients and create special dishes such as our Ayrshire Eggs – soft-poached eggs, black pudding, and Ayrshire bacon on a toasted muffin, covered in a rich hollandaise sauce. Or the Chef’s Cut Cheeseburger – short rib, chuck and brisket burger on a brioche bun with Scottish cheddar, baby gem lettuce, tomato, finished with our own burger sauce and served with skinny fries.

No matter the weather, we have had plenty of keen coffee drinkers and cake connoisseurs coming through the doors. And we can thankfully say that they have gone away satisfied!

Our cakes, bakes and tarts are freshly made in the Hub every morning and have proved incredibly popular. We have been serving up traditional Scottish bakes like scones and shortbread as soon as they’re out of the oven. Whilst our stunning lemon meringue tarts and cheesecakes have been disappearing as fast as we can make them.

For the safety of our customers and staff, we are working at a limited capacity right now. We are incredibly grateful to our customers who show great understanding that, not only are we finding our feet here, but that the entire hospitality industry is reopening after its biggest challenge in living memory.

It has been great to hear so many customers talk about how they feel that it is important to support local ventures such as ours. Convenience, sustainability, and quality all improve when we support local.

Eggs royale

The café is now open!

With our social distancing measures in place, the successful recruitment of new team members, and our test run of the kitchen complete, we can now offer a relaxed and satisfying sit-in service.

What’s Coming Out of the Kitchen

We are extremely pleased with our opening menu. It represents who we are, it celebrates local produce, and most importantly… it’s delicious! During this period, we are continuing to listen to our customers and find out exactly what you’re looking for.

Our chef and his team have shown fantastic creativity and versatility in designing the menu. We’re happy to offer Hubmade bakes and comforting meals that will leave you satisfied.

Still Supporting Local

One of the major benefits of supporting local producers is that it guarantees that our ingredients are incredibly fresh.

Family favourites and some new additions all appear on the menu. Nisbet’s Family Butchers provides our meats, Corrie Mains provides free-range eggs and day-1 milk from Morton’s is used in our comforting porridge (including our porridge brûlée). Following all that, some Woody’s ice cream along with one of our desserts goes down a treat!

We serve breakfast from 9am-11am. Our menu includes full breakfasts, morning rolls, porridge, granola, and specialities such as Eggs Benedict and fresh baguettes served with Ayrshire ham and Corrie Mains’ eggs.

Our lunch menu includes Mac ‘n’ Cheese, Fish and Chips, and a Chefs-Cut Cheeseburger. You can find our desserts here too!

As well as that, our kids’ menus offer up family-friendly meals and treats. From Eggy Bread to Mini Mac ‘n’ Cheese, there’s plenty to keep the kids happy (and that’s before they get stuck into their ice cream at lunch!)

Given the enthusiasm and satisfaction of our customers in the farm shop, we are excited to have the café open and to offer you a brand-new, purpose-built space where you can socialise, engage, and enjoy time together – with a beautiful rural backdrop, and with fantastic local food at the heart of it all.

Ayrshire Shop Sign

The Doors are Now Open

Last week we opened our farm shop doors to the public for the very first time!

We are so pleased to say that we have been very busy serving a lot of happy customers. The feedback we have received has been incredibly positive. We are also grateful for customers’ suggestions of other products.

It has been great to find out what our customers really love. Our gorgeous fresh strawberries have been flying out the door, and we have had to make some emergency calls to restock our cheeses!

What’s really promising is the amount of return customers that we’ve seen. There really is no better compliment than a customer who looks forward to coming back to see us. This has just stressed the importance of talking to customers. It has helped us understand what they are looking for, and how shopping with us fits into their day.

Another thing that has proved important (as we knew it would), is the connection between a new venture and the communities round about it. We have had customers from Kilmarnock, Ayr, Galston, Darvel, Hurlford, Mauchline, Cumnock, and everywhere in between.

Hearing good things coming from each of these communities has been hugely encouraging, and it has let us know we are reaching the people that we are trying to reach. We want to serve these communities and become a part of their weekly (if not daily) lives.

Farm shop

The farm shop has allowed us to focus our ideas in relation to the café. We will start serving breakfast rolls from the farm shop, along with tea and coffee, for those customers who are on the move or wanting to pick something simple up before work.

Following this, we will get the café open in around a month’s time. This is when our incredibly talented chef will be able to show off our local ingredients in the most delicious and imaginative ways possible. From hearty dishes like steak pie or fish and chips, to other, equally satisfying bites like our chef’s-cut burger.

The café will serve up Rocket Monkey coffee, created in a small, artisan roastery in South Ayrshire. Deep, rich and delicious – the coffee is just one of the products that we are championing at the Hub. And thankfully, we have so many other products to be proud of here in Ayrshire.

Stocked shop shelves

Not Long Now…

The shelves of the farm shop are being stacked right this minute, the outside space is getting a good working over, the kitchen is ready to get up and running, the coffee machine is being put through its paces by the staff. It’s fair to say we’re on the home straight!

Although we had planned a grand opening where we would be able to have a real celebration, the current situation has put paid to that idea. We look forward to the days where we can see you all in person in a thriving yet relaxed setting. Our cosy café or sun-drenched outside space will provide the perfect setting for just that.

Opening the Farm Shop

In the meantime, we are very excited about our community-run farm shop opening this Wednesday (28th). There you can buy all sorts of amazing local produce. Kitchen staples and indulgent treats will all be available. Fruit and veg, jams and chutneys, cereals, chocolates, cheeses, biscuits, and everything in between.

The Team is Growing

We have also taken on new staff, which feels like a big step in the progress of the Hub. After all, they will be a huge part of the project. Some will be waiting tables and serving customers in the shop, others will be out and about in the community continuing our work within the local area.

With our team growing, we will be able to achieve a lot more. This growing team and the Hub building will provide a local amenity that simply wasn’t there before. Opportunities for more people within the community has gone along with the promotion of social integration within that same community.

By paying us a visit, you will see, not just how much our project has developed, but how much the Ayrshire food scene has developed.

We can’t wait to get open and start serving the community like we had always planned.

The office provides a space for creativity to flourish…

We may be closer to moving into our new office space at the Hub, but we are anything but stationary.

One of the great things about our new Hub is that it houses our office space as well the café, farm shop and kitchens. This means we are working closer to one another (although still socially distanced!) and are better able to share ideas, communicate, and work together to complete our objectives.

The Role of the Office

From early on in the plans with Hadden Group – the company responsible for the construction of the Hub – we knew the office was going to play an important role.

Whether we’re planning and producing schedules, designing our menus, working with partners, creating campaigns or just bouncing ideas around, the office provides a space for creativity to flourish.

Over the past year, we have adapted in many ways due to the restrictions in place. This has meant rethinking our plans for the café, the farm shop and the development kitchen. Not only that, but our deliveries, meal preparation and food education classes have had to change too.

This has brought home just important and powerful a tool an online presence can be. That being said, we have all missed being able to chat with one another and really work together. Our office space will now allow us to do that.

This time last year it would have been hard to believe that people would be missing their offices. Whether it’s peace and quiet, a professional setup or a collaborative team, the office is the place where your skills and acumen come into their own.

When we talk about the buzz of the office, we don’t just mean the noise that the dodgy printer is making. We mean the good work that is going on around us. We might not have noticed it until it wasn’t there, but the hard work, creativity and collaboration of an office inspires us every working day.

Progress Continues at the Crossroads Hub

Ayrshire Food Hub

With the construction of the building complete, we’re working hard to create a warm, welcoming space inside, and planning our growing garden outside. We are also excited to launch our takeaway service!

The Build Continues

As you would expect, measures to combat Covid have been at the forefront of our mind. We’re happy to say that we already have our contactless doors installed and sanitiser dispensers in place at the Hub.

We are readying our office to take our staff safely, allowing us to deliver the best quality service in our community work as well as our exciting, upcoming retail projects.

The farm shop is being kitted out, ready to stock a huge range of gorgeous local produce. Pantry staples and plenty of farm-fresh favourites will be on offer alongside some freshly baked goodies and indulgent treats. Plus, our Morton’s Milk vending machine in place so that you can refill your milk bottles with the freshest, tastiest milk available!

As you can imagine, trying to get a café up and running safely whilst things are so changeable presents plenty of challenges. We have been planning and adapting from the word go, and we know we can offer something special to the people of Ayrshire and further afield.

Obviously, we don’t want people to travel unnecessarily. And as much as we all miss the sociable, bustling atmosphere that a café can provide, that’s just got to be something we look forward to in the (hopefully not-too-distant) future.

The Hub Takeaway

Instead, we will be offering a takeaway service! We’ll take the philosophy at the heart of the Hub and package it in an easy, convenient takeaway style. That means fresh, local ingredients, family favourites and familiar takeaway dishes all made right here at the Hub.

This gives us a chance to get in our gleaming new kitchen! And it means that we can start serving you sooner than expected! It might not have been in our original plans, but we are incredibly excited to get our takeaway service started. We can’t wait to open up our café and farm shop and welcome you all in. Keep an eye out on our social media to stay up-to-date with our takeaway menu!