Elchies, at Campbell Cairns farm in Speyside, is a family run business which husband and wife team Brian and Julie Cameron started with the vision of producing high quality products using traditional values of zero waste and total animal care. Realising that they would need to engage with customers at many levels delivering ‘education’ became an extension of activities.
With a herd of 350+ Boer goats, pedigree and cross Ryeland sheep and guardian alpacas Elchies produces and markets meat, skins and fibre products made from Elchies’ animals to customers globally. The steep learning curve for Elchies – particularly in meat goat husbandry where little knowledge or support exists in this country has generated a rich pool of knowledge from which to draw the tremendous content Elchies delivers to young and old.
From a small portacabin Julie and Brian have developed and delivered structured courses on all aspects of small farming business. For example their goat keeping course, promoted by the Scottish Crofting Federation, was over-subscribed to the extent it was re-run a further twice in 2017. Participants travelled from the length and breadth of Scotland to receive practical and classroom training with unique content. Elchies has also been host to number of SCF ‘bite-sized’ learning courses eg Sheepdog Training.
With visitor numbers as high as 1,600 (2017) ‘Kidding Around’ is a spring, one-day event to introduce the unfamiliar to farming and especially young children to animals by creating a playful and engaging experience. At Elchies children, and adults, can interact with lambs, kids, tractors and traditional pastimes such as carding and spinning. Bespoke visits and open days, including Open Farm Sunday, offer greater in-depth knowledge of farming processes aimed at a more adult audience.
Elchies regularly and often visit local schools to provide educational support. At nursery schools, (eg Rainbow Nursey, Elgin, June’19) children develop an awareness of farming through a fun experience interacting with lambs and kids. At primary schools (eg Mortlach Primary, Dufftown, June’19) this becomes more structured eg taking Elchies fleece, part-processed fibre, finished yarns and products to deliver knowledge of ‘farm-to-product’. Secondary schools, (eg Aberlour Secondary, June’19) bring teenagers for ‘work experience’ with Brian and Julie tutoring pupils through simple farm tasks.
Elchies also provide support to challenged children. Eg a local primary school undertook a six week course, two hours per week learning about goats, the geography of origination (South Africa), the history of their breed, the mathematics of feed and weight/growth, the preparation of animals for showing and even the science of ‘poo sampling’. All in a practical and hands on way that has brought numerous accolades.
Finally, Elchies provides mentored support for experiential learning to young people undertaking their Duke of Edinburgh Award programme and those seeking to address other areas of personal challenge eg a teenager from a non-farming family who suffered chronic dyslexia. Given developmental work at the farm is now in his 2nd year at agricultural college.