Parsley, sage, rosemary and Penny

Penny Turnbull
Penny Turnbull

PITTENWEEM woman Penny Turnbull has swapped the hot seat of a global company for the hot house of her own business.

After 14 years handling crisis management for an international hotel chain, Penny has taken the plunge to pursue her passion for herbs and created The Little Herb Farm in the East Neuk town.

Penny came to Pittenweem in 2005 when American husband Michael Smith joined the staff at St Andrews University. They had been living in the USA but decided they wanted their then 18-month-old daughter Olivia to be brought up in the UK.

As it turned out, the move to the East Neuk allowed Penny, who had been brought up around the world depending on where her army father was stationed, to put down roots in more ways than one.

“We loved our first house in Charles Street but the garden wasn’t big enough,” said Penny, who comes from a family of avid gardeners.

“When this place came up we just knew it was right for us.”

‘This place’ is a deceptive detached cottage at Viewforth, on the road into Pittenweem, that conceals nearly one acre of garden behind, bordering on to farmland.

Herbs have always been Penny’s passion – she even had a herb garden when she was a student – and she loves their combination of beauty and versatility.

Now she is hoping others will share her enthusiasm, having given up her job in May to concentrate on the herbs full-time.

“I’m specialising in the more unsual herbs rather the everyday ones people can pick in the supermarket or at a garden centre,” she said.

In addition to growing herbs outdoors, she also has a 40-foot polytunnel and a 20-foot greenhouse.

However, the potted herbs, all organic and peat-free, that she sells are only one part of the business. She also grows herbs for the variety of flavoured vinegars she produces, such as Blackcurrant and Thyme and Tayberry and Sage, in a workshop created in the former stables behind the house.

So far she has been selling at farmers’ markets and through local outlets but she is now going to be concentrating more on building up the business’s online presence.

Although there is no outlet at the house, she is happy to have people make an appointment to drop in.

As if growing, researching, marketing and selling, were not enough, Penny also writes an online blog about the ‘farm’.

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