Growing up as a farmer's daughter and a passion for livestock, Lucy Beattie is flying the flag for women and proving they can take charge in the world of agriculture.

She runs the Leckmelm Estate, near Ullapool, in Wester Ross, which is a diversified business that has turned into a community in itself.

Here, she spoke with The Scottish Farmer about her caeer:

What is your background in agriculture?

I grew up with a strong interest in the family farm and it was hard to get me out of the sheep sheds from an early age. I was sent to an all girls school and I’d say I was the only pupil there who wanted to go to agricultural college following my A levels – possibly the only one ever!

Before I started college, I took a year out of education and worked in bars and on a neighbouring hill sheep farm near Ullapool, before travelling to America and doing a bit more of the same. I even worked with Hair sheep in Hawaii – that's a tropical breed that didn’t need to be clipped.

I was nearly at the end of my studies at Harper Adams Agricultural College when both my parents died within five months of each other.

So, at 21 years of age, I unexpectedly took on the running of the land at Leckmelm and have been doing so now for 23 years.

Can you tell us a bit about your job and what it entails?

Leckmelm is a mixed landholding and is made up of 600 acres of commercial forestry, 120 acres of agro-forestry, 120 acres of hill grazing and 80 acres of in-bye permanent pasture.

The farm is home to 250 breeding ewes and 100 turkeys at Christmas time. We also have a few diversified enterprises including holiday letting, residential letting and a butchery as well – so we’re always kept busy!

Around 10 years ago, I had emergency surgery that changed my life. Prior to that, I had been working full time on the farm but following my surgery there was a long recovery period and I had to change my level of physical involvement. Now I work mainly off farm for my day job.

My previous jobs were with the Scottish Crofting Federation and West Highland College, working in agricultural training and education. Currently, I am a PhD candidate and have a stipend with the University of the West of Scotland, researching the impact of public engagement on teaching and research in STEM.

I still run the farm office, doing IACS and business planning, and take my holidays to coincide with busy times including lambing, turkey production, sales and clipping.

It’s hard to stay away sometimes as I’m never happier than when I'm in my wellies and surrounded by mud. However, I’ve got better at finding time to do things off farm too.

Favourite agricultural show to attend?

It has to be the Lochbroom Sheepdog trials near Ullapool – it's a great day out!

What has been the best and worst advice you have received?

The best advice was to sort out my will, talk to my kids about succession and make a plan to retire and hand it on, which I intend to do within the next 10 years.

I can’t recall any bad advice that I’ve received – I don’t hold grudges!

What gives you the most job satisfaction?

Strangely enough, I would say drains! Living on the West Coast, we get a lot of water, foul and clean and we’ve just been renovating some collapsed drains in the frosty weather and it’s good to see them finally flowing free.

Do you feel pressure managing the farm and if so, how do you overcome that?

Undoubtedly, I have experienced and felt pressure managing the farm. The most critical points for me have been when I had my operation and when we suffered the terrible floods.

However, on a day-to-day basis, I felt the most pressure when my children were younger and also during the time when I was working various different day jobs.

Fast forwarding to present day, I am not working 24/7 on the farm and I have come to learn that it's good to have a break or even take a proper holiday which lasts more than a couple days!

I did have a lovely holiday two years ago but, yes you guessed it, I was staying on a farm that my sister was running in Italy!

Why do you like working within the agricultural industry?

I love being in touch with nature. The feeling of the soil on my hands, the smell of fresh air in the morning, the good people and good communities.

Biggest disappointment in your career?

I’d say that I’m too scared to drive a quad bike. I prefer two legs, a tractor or a Land Rover and believe I should have been born in another era!

Most influential person in your career?

Rachel Carson who wrote ‘The Silent Spring’. I was at agricultural college in the late 1990s when I came across the book and, at the time, I was probably regarded as being a little left-field in my views on soil organic matter and chemicals.

This book was a turning point and led me to read and learn more about alternative agriculture and organic systems.

What’s been your biggest achievement?

Getting accepted to do a PhD and I guess the next achievement will be completing it!

Abiding memory?

If we are talking about farming memories, then I would say the hubbub of the farm during clipping and hay time when I was younger.

People would come from other estates to lend a hand and it was very lively. I remember the marathon consumption of Tennants lager and the cans that had pictures of scantily clad ladies!

What’s been the biggest hurdle you’ve had to overcome?

The lowest point would have been a big flood we suffered in August, 2014, following hurricane Bertha. It caused so much damage to roads, walls, buildings and it took years to repair everything.

There’s still one shed I’ve not cleared – it just takes time and is dispiriting work. I’d never have got through it without the support and help from so many friends and family.

What’s your favourite breed of cattle or sheep and why?

Amongst the cattle I’d say the Aberdeen Angus as they out-winter and taste great. However, I love the nature of the Hereford.

In the sheep, the Clun Forest would be my pick as it’s the breed that I grew up with. I have a soft spot for them, but they are so rare now and I’ve not seen any for years except at an agricultural show.

Any regrets?

I was offered a plot of land to buy on the Isle of Ometepe, in Nicaragua, for next to nothing during my time there.

I soon realised that it was the kind of farm that you may have to keep a machete at hand just in case, so I never took up the offer.

However, sometimes when the rain seems like it will never end I do wonder, what if ...?

If you could have gone into any other profession what would it be and why?

I have always enjoyed cooking and, in years gone by, have worked in kitchens when I needed to make some extra money.

It's still connected to farming really because food is the end product. I enjoy using fresh and local ingredients – although I'm not very good at baking!

Any other woman in agriculture you admire and why?

I would have to say Lady Eve Balfour. She was foundational to the establishment of the Soil Association.

She was in an era when agriculture would not have been a suitable career choice for young ladies.

Despite this, she established a good reputation and developed research-informed practices in organic farming.

Have you ever received discrimination as a female within the industry, or at any other time?

I cannot think of a time where I have received discrimination for being a woman. Perhaps sometimes people will meet me at the farm and ask to speak to the boss, whether that is because I am young (ish) or a female I am not sure.

One man – who shall remain nameless – came up to the farm to see me around 10 years after I had inherited the farm from my parents and told me: "I have to hand it to you, I thought you'd never stick at it, but you did."

I think that gives a clear indication as to how farming is – people are not quick to judge you or to praise you.

Outwith farming, are you involved in any other organisations?

I like to sing and play music. When we are not in a pandemic, I may be found with the Ullapool Community choir or at the Ferry Boat Inn open mic' night. I was swimming with the Ullapool masters but as the pool is another casualty of lockdown, I’ve swapped swimming for running.

Advice for any female wanting to make a career in agriculture?

Get some experience on a hill livestock farm. It’s one of the toughest environments to work in but it will build your resilience and resourcefulness to cope in any situation with limited resources.

Have you ever felt that you have encouraged other women to follow in your footsteps?

I know my daughter, who is aged 11, wants to follow in my footsteps into the world of farming.

Recently, for her birthday, I gave her a beautiful dress, as well as a boilersuit. I got a polite "thank you" for the dress and she proceeded to put the boilersuit on straight away – ready for farming that morning!

She's got an innate sense and enthusiasm for livestock, which is really lovely to see.

Now we have a Brexit plan in place, what do you think the future of the Scottish agricultural industry will look like?

I know we have to be positive about the lot we are dealt with, however, I am saddened by the exit from Europe.

I have grown up as a European and benefitted from some fantastic exchange programmes in agriculture and Erasmus. My half siblings live and run farms in continental Europe.

I think the future for the Scottish agricultural industry needs to be fought for. We have an excellent developed administration, who work well to support Scottish interests.

In farming, you need certainty so you can implement long term plans and this has been at the forefront of discussion for some time.

The suggestion by George Eustice that hill sheep farmers could diversify into beef cattle was preposterous and it showed how little he understood of the fixed equipment required to make that change. It gives me very little confidence in the Westminster administration.