AFTER FARMING for forty years, Irene Fowlie decided it was time to get some help with her flock, so turned to the Skills Matching Service that Lantra Scotland provides for rural businesses and potential employees.

Lantra’s team put her in touch with 24-year-old Nathan Anderson and she was impressed enough to then offer him the job, with the result that he is now settled in with his family in a bungalow on the farm and busy learning about pedigree sheep practice.

Irene, who runs a prize-winning pedigree flock of over 100 Suffolk ewes with her husband Jim near Strichen in Fraserburgh, said: “It’s fantastic having Nathan staying and working here, as it’s made a huge difference to us.

"Not long after he arrived, we sold some sheep on the farm. It was a time-consuming job but really worthwhile because we were exceptionally busy and he did tremendously well. I couldn't have done all that myself."

It turned out that Mr Anderson already had some experience working with sheep on a Highland estate, and was also a trained gamekeeper, which has proven useful to the Fowlies.

"We used to run a shoot on the farm but stopped because we became too busy," said Irene. "But now Nathan’s here, he’s able to look after the 400 pheasants and 200 ducks when things are quieter with the sheep, and so we’ve had another family shoot again."

Originally from Stirling, Nathan trained in gamekeeping at Borders College before doing a Modern Apprenticeship on an estate near Inverness through North Highland UHI College. When he saw the skills matching service being promoted by Jim Smith on Facebook, he had just been furloughed from a position in Skye, so it was ideal timing for him too.

“I’d been interested in farming and gamekeeping since school, so was delighted to get this job, as it combines them both," he said. "It’s keeping me on my toes, because one day you’re in a shed catching tups, the next you’re in a wood chasing pheasants.

"You’re always learning on the job as well. It’s very hands-on work and you’ve got to be willing to get dirty and stick with it in all weathers, as the livestock doesn’t take a day off.

"The best thing is being outside all the time and still being able to spend a lot of time with my kids and partner, as they live here too," he added. "I’ve learnt a lot from Irene and Jim and think that farming is a great career. Every day’s different and I enjoy the job a lot. It’s what I want to do.”

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