Tracey Roan is married to Steven, who, along with his family are into the 6th generation of dairy farming.

Steven and Tracey farm at Boreland of Colvend, near Dalbeattie, with their family Andrew (10) and Lucy (8) and they milk 210 pedigree Holstein cows.

In 2015 Tracey swapped a very urban career to come home and work with her husband, and with her in-laws, in the wider business – Roan`s Dairy

She told The Scottish Farmer about how this came about, about how they because TV ‘stars’, and about what the future holds for them as a family.

Did you come from a farming background?

Yes, I was brought up in the Borders on a dairy farm, just outside Kelso, but throughout High School I never considered being a farmer, or even being involved in the industry.

After High School I actually went to art college in Carlisle, but I just didn’t settle there and made the tough decision to return home with my tail between my legs! So I took some time out and did various jobs – the best one was working for Allied Grain as a grain sampler over the summer and I also did a bit of travelling, but I still kept coming home and ended up at Auchincruive – still not to do agriculture – but to do an honours degree in Rural Recreation and Tourism Management and I graduated in 2004.

How did you meet Steven?

It was in my third year. We met in that typical student way – on a night out. It was then that things started to take a different route for me.

He suggested I came home with him one weekend down to Dumfries and Galloway – I can remember it well as they were making hay and I was sent on errand to collect parts – 18 years and I still have that job! From there I suppose I fell in love with both with Steven and Dumfries and Galloway.

For a long time, I still thought I would have my career away from the farm and I ended up as a graduate trainee at Loreburn Housing and I did my post-grad in Housing Studies up in Glasgow.

Working there was a total eye opener, it really does make you appreciate what you’ve got in life.

At that stage I helped on the farm at the weekends and was also involved with Stewartry Young Farmers.

How did that career become one of being fulltime on the farm?

We have two kids, Andrew, who’s 10 and Lucy, who’s eight. It was when they came along that I ended up taking a career break to have more time at home.

Child care for two under fives was so expensive and getting school holiday cover was a nightmare. I was paying more out than I was earning.

I ended up juggling too many things. At that time we were milking 3 times a day so I was doing a few night milkings, working part-time, then milk prices took a crash, we were short staffed so I packed in my paid job, with paid holidays and flexitime, to work longer hours and with no holidays but I was there for the kids and that was important to us at the time and it worked well for us.

During this time I was on the Rural Leadership Programme and this helped when launching our new family business venture Roan`s Dairy.

Steven and I are a strong unit. Although, as much as everything outside is teamwork, he’d be the first to admit that that’s not the case when it comes to household things, but that’s fine – sometimes!

How did you get involved in This Farming Life?

Someone put us forward for the show. It wasn’t something I had ever considered doing and I definitely didn’t think Steven would be keen, but he was, and away we went.

The BBC came to see us once a fortnight or if something ‘special’ was happening.

We had no say over how things we edited. There were things that happened that we felt should have been shown, but we were still happy with the end result. It was only a fraction of the total footage that was ever shown.

There were positives and negatives to taking part – including comments on social media – but that’s the nature of the game. People hide behind their keyboards, you can’t let it bother you.

How did you feel about how the show was perceived?

The show wasn’t aimed at farmers, it was aimed at the general public, so it was a great way to show folk where food comes from.

It also showcased Dumfries and Galloway. It’s often a wee part of the world that’s hidden, but This Farming Life showed it off.

Lots of people have approached us off the back of the show. I've been asked to speak at quite a few events so my speech making experience from Young Farmers days paid off. It’s still quite surreal to get noticed when out and about and you find yourself smiling at everyone.

How do you see the role of women in agriculture?

There have always been women involved in agriculture and it’s sometimes felt that women must prove themselves and that shouldn’t be the case.

Both sides of my family come from farming so the female figures in my life always worked on the farm - my Nana Hodge is a great example of women in agriculture. She often reminds me about her bottling milk on the farm and delivering while taking the kids to school, so it’s not a new thing.

In some areas of Scotland, they do face more challenges. I know that there are some women out there that feel hindered and that they shouldn’t go to meetings as they wont know anyone or can’t bring anything to the room so if the women in agriculture ‘movement’ can help these women, great, but I do hope it doesn’t go too far.

These days some men actually say, ‘what about men in agriculture’? and it’s a fair point sometimes!

How did the Dairy Women’s Network come about?

The Dumfries and Galloway Dairy Women’s Network is supported by NFU Scotland. It’s a really informal network and that’s what makes it work.

When I came home to work on the farm full time I had to learn quickly. There wasn’t always time to be shown things and I did often struggle with things like some of the paperwork.

I looked at courses to go on, but they all seemed far away, cost money and there was no local women in dairy group. It was then that me and a few other ladies got together, spoke to NFUS and decided to trial our women’s network.

Over 30 women appeared at the first meeting, all excited to learn new things. People that we had never even met started to come and things just snowballed.

You do doubt yourself so it’s good to meet people and reassure yourself that other people are going through what you are.

The network will have been running two years this August and it’s ticking away nicely and thankfully because its well supported we haven’t struggled for ideas for meetings.

I’ve met some great people. It’s all quite informal so it’s not any great hassle. We keep it simple and that works. We’ve had some great talks and trips.

We’ve even had some men attend our meetings, we certainly don’t discriminate.

Have you ever felt discrimination as a woman in farming?

I’ve never felt discrimination as a woman but one example of what we do face is something that has just happened there. Scottish Water just came to the farm, met me, and asked ‘for the farmer’.

Why couldn’t they have just dealt with me?

It’s maybe a picky issue, but sometimes people still just look for `male figure` about the farm. It’s a perception that needs to be addressed.

What problems do you see in the industry just now?

Social media often does as much harm as good. Issues like veganism are promoted and the agricultural industry definitely doesn’t get its far say. If you tried to respond to some comments it would become a fulltime job.

People like Chris Packham do it for their own publicity. They don’t seem to care that what they are doing on social media is destroying an industry that has fed them for thousands of years!

The idea that farmers need to have a voice is a difficult one because farmers themselves don’t have time – they need someone to fight their corner.

They need a non-industry based ambassador to speak on their behalf, not someone from farming, because the general public needs to understand the issue. Talking to farmers is preaching to the converted.

Brexit is obviously a big deal, but it’s out-with our control. It’s embarrassing for our country.

How did Roans Dairy get off the ground?

Roans Dairy is a true family effort. We supply fresh, free range milk throughout Dumfries and Galloway.

My brother in law, Stuart, had always wanted to go down that route, selling milk direct to the customer but, as with any busy family farm, everyone was busy doing their own thing.

It was when the milk prices crashed that it became a now or never situation and everyone decided to jump in. That was in September 2015.

We started out selling milk to local cafes and shops and then in 2016 started delivering to doorsteps and have been increasing our product range to include local free range eggs, local yogurt and fresh orange juice.

The business is steadily growing, there is definitely the demand out there for fresh, local milk. Word of mouth counts for so much in rural areas and luckily our customers seem happy to help us with that.

We’re not a huge-scale dairy farm, we’re just trying to make a living doing what we’re doing.

You must invest to progress and in this day and age you have to diversify to make a living and that’s what we’re trying to do – its about thinking outside the box sometimes.

What is your main role on the farm?

My biggest role on the farm is dealing with the calves. They’re great because they fit in with childcare, but they’re also really important in that they’re the future of our herd.

I do a lot of the social media and marketing side of things too. I am no expert in this field but I actually really enjoy it and when selling direct is it a key part of our business – I am often found on my phone in the calf shed busy tweeting whilst feeding a calf. Social Media is just like farming – it is 24/7!

Do you all work well together?

Yes, most of the time! We wouldn’t be a normal family if we didn’t have the occasional heated discussion. The family have all fallen into our own roles within the business and we all work along together. It’s been a big learning curve for us, but things are building up as we go along.

We deal with things as a team. Plastic within the business is the next hurdle. People want their milk in glass bottles, but they need to keep in mind the costs of that, so it’s something we’re going to have to address in the future.

Our products aren’t expensive. They cost what fresh, quality milk should cost – its just that supermarkets have used milk as a loss-leader.

People like that there is a story behind our milk.

We have very distinctive branding and it’s worked out well for us. It’s become a stamp that’s carried out through the whole brand. People often tell us they have seen our `pink udder` so it must be getting noticed.

How else has the business developed?

We also have a milkshake bar. It was originally a 3x3 gazebo and pallet bar but last year we have progressed onto wheels and converted a horsebox – affectionately known as the Udder Bar! My sister-in-law Aylett and I are very proud of it.

We had an open day on the farm at Barnbarroch and trialled milkshakes – we burnt out 4 machines so we knew we were onto something! From there someone asked us if we’d be willing to take them to Dumfries show that same year, so that set us the challenge of getting there, and we haven’t looked back.

We go to festivals, motor shows, agricultural shows, the local civic week, weddings – you name it, we’ll take our horsebox. There’s nowhere we can’t go now we’re on four wheels.

People like our shakes because they’re different from the usual fizzy juice that you get at shows. We did 31 events last year and this years is looking to be just as busy.

It’s another way of promoting our milk and meeting our customers and we really enjoy it. We take the kids and the road trips are certainly entertaining!

Do you have any 'off farm' jobs?

I was appointed to the board for the South of Scotland Economic Partnership in January 2018. The Partnership brings together the seven key public sector organisations that support economic growth in the South of Scotland, together with the private, third and education sectors. We're aiming to promote fair work and inclusive growth with a clear focus on the South of Scotland and prepare the way for the new South of Scotland Enterprise Agency that is likely to be in place from April 2020.

Being asked to be on the board was a bit of shock and to start with I did feel out of my depth – but I think this is just natural when you haven't been in that environment before such as learning the government 'lingo' and having the confidence to speak up at board meetings.

I am also on the local Community Council Committee. I joined this I a felt that it was important to have a say in the community I live in – yes, they aren't always the most exciting meetings to attend but it has an important part to play in our community.

What are your plans for the future?

As far as the future is concerned my main aim is to find good socks that don’t fall down in my wellies and hole at the heel within the first week!

No, in all seriousness, we want to try and push forward with the Udder Bar, and hopefully build up a wee fleet of them.

It would be great to attend more festivals. Quite often, local producers get priced out by bigger corporations or even businesses from other countries, but we’ll need to see how that works out with Brexit and things like that. Themed weddings is a growing trend so that is something we are looking to offer with our Udder Bar.

Overall we would like to keep going the way we’ve been going – building the business in a realistic way that keeps it sustainable for our set up.

It might not have been the career that I thought I was going to have when I left school, but I certainly wouldn’t change it now!