TWO FARMS in Dunbartonshire and North Berwick have been selected by the government to develop their food tourism business and encourage others to follow in their footsteps as 'monitor' examples of the diversification.

The Lennox family of Shantron farm, Dunbartonshire and Stuart and Jo McNicol of Castleton farm, North Berwick, will now look to work with other farms, estates and crofts, to improve their profitability, productivity and sustainability through practical demonstrations and sharing of best practice. The hope is that through sharing ideas and knowledge from others they will be able to maximise the potential of their businesses and enable others to sell their farming story much more effectively.

Making the announcement on Wednesday, during a trip to Castleton farm, rural economy secretary Fergus Ewing commented: “Shantron and Castleton Farms are fantastic examples of farmers developing agri-tourism, which has not only driven new income streams, but has also generated thousands of visitors on to farms to learn about food and how it is produced.

"That is why I have asked them to engage with their peers to share their experience, best practice and facilitate discussions within the sector. By doing so, I hope others will follow their lead, helping to improve the sectors overall sustainability and profitability for the next generation,” he said.

The McNicol family have successfully diversified their cereals farm by developing a wedding and events business, installing a biomass boiler and have recently converted upcycled shipping containers in to a coastal café experience:

“It’s reality TV to be honest – people can’t believe they are sitting in the café and watching a Kestrel hovering above them. There is such a disconnect between people living a rural lifestyle and those from an urban background and we want to offer an educational experience which links the sea and land together in an enjoyable experience of the countryside,” Mr McNicol explained.

“We are also trying to use artisan food and drink, linking in with local rural businesses to create an agri-tourism trail – we want people to understand where their food comes from, how it is produced and how it is then used in the local economy.

“We are appealing to foreign visitors, day trippers, active explorers and more – to come enjoy a place where they can sample fantastic food and drink and beautiful views. We are creating employment for the locals in the area and for us as farmers, working alone in the fields can be lonely but having a business like this you are speaking face to face with the public and can explain what is going on in the field,” he concluded.

The Lennox family, who run a hill farm producing Scotch lamb, have also offered farm accommodation for over thirty years: “We wish to be agri-tourism monitor farmers so we can work with others to learn how to make money from selling the farm experience, in a way that offers a unique day out for the tourist and is financially lucrative for ourselves,” they commented.

“We have been in both farming and tourism for a long time, but we feel that by combining the two much more smartly, we can develop a distinctive and innovative agri-tourism product in the Scottish tourism market. As monitor farmers we hope that other farmers can also learn alongside us on how to tell and sell their farming story much more effectively.”