A RARE and exciting farming opportunity on a Scottish island could see one successful applicant take over the tenancy of Ulva Farm on the Isle of Ulva.

In 2018, Ulva was purchased by the local community group ‘North West Mull Community Woodland Company’ (NWMCWC) and since the buy-out, it has embarked on an ambitious project to gradually reintroduce and build up agricultural activity, alongside the delivery of wider environmental benefits.

This has included large-scale fencing work, restoring stone dykes and substantial bracken control. Two years ago, a small sheep flock was joined by a newly established herd of Highland heifers and now, as the farm develops into a viable livestock unit, a resident part-time livestock manager is being sought with the hope of this leading into a full tenancy.

The Scottish Farmer:

Highlanders graze amongst the bluebells on the Isle of Ulva (Photo: Rhuri Munro)

Commenting, NWMCWC director John Addy said: “Getting farming moving again on Ulva is vital for the sustainable future of the island’s community and environment, but we are the first to admit that we ourselves are not farmers.

"We were keen from the start to offer somebody the opportunity of taking on the tenancy on Ulva and becoming a valuable member of the island’s community, but we were also conscious of how difficult it is to build up a farming business from scratch without a sizeable starting capital," he explained. "A lot of investment and initial work is needed to bring the farm into a condition that supports sustainable, efficient and safe livestock management alongside tourism and other interests on the island.

“Our strategy since the buyout has therefore been to get the farm up and running as much as possible so that we can hand something over that is workable for a new tenant.”

Iain MacKay of Torloisk Farm on neighbouring Mull has experience of the challenges that are faced by new entrant and tenant farmers and has kindly offered to support the new livestock manager settle into their role and supplement their income with work on his own farm.

Read more: New appointments at Scottish Land & Estates

“It is increasingly difficult these days for new entrants and tenant farmers to get access to land, especially land that comes with a decent tenancy which offers the longer-term security needed to grow a sustainable, profitable and resilient farming business,” said Iain.

“I had to deal with a lot of challenges as a new entrant tenant farmer and my business was held back for many years because of that. That’s why I welcome tenancy opportunities coming onto the market. I am very happy to be able to help the revitalisation of Ulva Farm and, if needed, offer support to the incoming future tenant by sharing my knowledge and experience of hill farming and giving them additional work here at Torloisk.

"Neighbouring is an important tradition amongst hill farmers, and I would like to see this type of collaboration continue for the benefit of the next generation,” he said. “The industry is currently facing a lot of uncertainty and there will undoubtedly be many more challenges ahead, but for the right person this is a great opportunity.”

Ulva Farm covers a total area of 1,462.63ha of mostly hill ground at the centre of the island, former township ground across lower-lying areas along the coastline, and better-quality ground at the eastern end of Ulva. In 2020, 10kilometres of stock fencing was erected to create a boundary between the hill block and road leading to the neighbouring island of Gometra, to create the north coast hill park, and to replace derelict fences on the in-bye ground.

NWMCWC established a cattle herd comprising of 34 pedigree Highland heifers which are run extensively alongside a small sheep flock – with a Highland stock bull due to join the herd in early summer 2022.

The livestock manager position will be available from late spring /early summer 2022 and will include rental of a recently refurbished four-bedroom property on the farm. To help aid with the search, NWMCWC has enlisted the support of the Scottish Land Matching Service (SLMS) and interested parties are encouraged to contact SLMS@nfus.org.uk for more information.