The first Forestry Commission Scotland starter farm in the Highlands is to be run by Sandy and Kirsteen Douglas, a local family from Quoybrae in Caithness.
Sandy and Kirsteen will take up occupancy at Achnamoine starter farm in Halkirk on 1st April with their 8 year old son.
The starter farm programme gives new farmers an opportunity to get their first foothold into the farming industry. Successful entrants to a starter farm are given a 10 year lease to enable them to build up a farming business using land and property on the National Forest Estate.
The announcement was made today by Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead at the National Farmer’s Union AGM.
Mr Lochhead said:
“This is a great new opportunity for Sandy and his family to make their way into the farming business.
“To thrive, the farming industry needs to continue attracting new blood into the sector. This is a very positive and welcome move which will give Sandy and Kirsteen that all important first foot into running their own farming business.
“I wish them all every success for the future.”
Achnamoine is likely to be around 101 hectares in size with 56ha improved pasture and 45 ha rough grazing. There is also the potential for up to 27 ha of woodland planting on rough ground. The farm is equipped with a house and range of semi modern buildings and the Commission is erecting a new general purpose shed as part of the refurbishment works.
Mr Douglas is currently farm manager and head yardsman at Quoybrae livestock mart in Caithness.
Along with looking after the Mart’s sheep, Mr Douglas keeps a small flock of his own and is well known in sheep breeding circles for his Charolais and Blueface Leister sheep. These sheep will form the nucleus of the flock for the starter farm, where he intends to build on his reputation of breeding quality hardy animals.
Sandy Douglas added:
“We are really pleased to be taking on this new starter farm and look forward to working with Forestry Commission Scotland. It is great news for us as a family, especially as it is so local.
“The whole process of applying for a starter farm was really useful too. It helped us concentrate our business plans for the future and target our priorities.”
Achnamoine will be the eighth starter farm to be operational across Scotland and the first in the Highlands. The programme already includes units in Fife, Ayrshire, Stirlingshire, Aberdeenshire and Dumfriesshire.
From today, Forestry Commission Scotland is inviting applications for a further two starter farms, both of which will be available for occupation from 1st October 2015.
Woodfold starter farm, Rothiemay, near Huntly, will offer a good mix of arable, permanent pasture and rough grazing within its 82 ha along with a farmhouse and suitable farm buildings.
Gourdie starter farm in Dundee was offered last year but a suitable tenant was not found. Forestry Commission Scotland has revised the offer there and is coming back to the market with a more focused and targeted horticultural unit. The balance of the good quality arable land at Gourdie will continue to be conventionally let for arable production.
Applications for the two other starter farms are now on the Forestry Commission Scotland website. www.forestry.gov.uk/starterfarms.