SIGNIFICANT CHANGES have been made on the Mitchell family's Whitriggs Farm, in Denholm, since they took on the mantle of monitor farm for the Borders.

But now the end is near, and as the Mitchell's face their final meeting as part of the monitor programme, the intention is to look back on what has been achieved.

Scheduled for the end of this month, January 29, that last meeting will highlight the difference that the three-year project has made to their farm's profitability and efficiency, and those of their community group.

Robert and Lesley Mitchell farm in partnership with their son Stuart, running a herd of 170 suckler cows at their 442-hectare farm as well as a breeding herd of 300 red deer. Stuart took on the responsibility of the day-to-day decision making at Whitriggs in 2018 and is keen to ensure that it continues to develop.

At the start of the programme, the full community group decided on the vision to 'Maintain a profit in a challenging environment'. Throughout the three years they have made many changes towards this, including introducing a new enterprise, and diversifying their production system to organic.

Stuart said: “We have thoroughly enjoyed being part of the Monitor Farm Programme for the last three years. The input from specialists and support from the community group and facilitators has been vital in some of our decision making.

“The biggest developments we have implemented include moving to a six-week calving period, investigating our underperforming sheep flock, and the introduction of the new deer enterprise. Our business is now in a much better position for the future than when we started the programme, and we are positive it will continue to move forward.”

As part of the programme the Mitchells have benchmarked both technical and financial data with their business group.

Stuart added: “I have enjoyed seeing the many benefits of sharing data over the past three years and I hope it continues beyond the monitor farm programme.”

At the final meeting, Quality Meat Scotland chair Kate Rowell will talk about her time as a monitor farmer, her experience since finishing the programme and the positive effect it has had on her farming business.

Attendees will also have the chance to hear from Oliver McEntryre, head of agriculture at Barclays Bank, who will discuss setting a vision for the future. Dr Paul Thomas from Plantation Systems will speak on carbon sequestration and management.

Monitor farm facilitator, Fergus Younger from SAOS, commented: “This final meeting is a fantastic opportunity to review the many changes the Mitchells have implemented over the last three years. It’s also a perfect time to look forward and focus on what they will achieve in the coming years.”

The meeting on Tuesday January 29 will be held at Whitriggs, TD9 8QR, and will begin at 10.30am. Lunch will be provided at Cross Keys, Denholm. The meeting is expected to finish by 3pm. All are welcome and the event is free.

To book a place (and lunch) contact Mr Younger on 07771 966649 or email