Organisers of the Scottish Smallholder Festival are toasting the event’s success in its new home.

The festival, now in its twelfth year, moved to the Royal Highland Centre after the closure of its traditional venue in Forfar.

A range of livestock events, including Scotland’s only pig show, as well as cookery and craft demonstrations attracted large numbers of the estimated 20,000 smallholders in Scotland, in addition to members of the public.

The Scottish Farmer: Food writer and campaigner Wendy Barrie gave demonstrations and tastingsFood writer and campaigner Wendy Barrie gave demonstrations and tastings

A number of key organisations were also on hand to give advice and discuss rural issues, including Police Scotland and SEPA.

Kate Hadley-Boyd from SRUC said the rural college had seen a lot of interest from attendees.

She said: “It’s good to see people who are seeing the animals and realise they can actually do courses where they are interacting with them, so they are not just sat in a classroom all day – they can get out and build a career with animals.”

The Scottish Farmer: Phil Dryburgh from SEPAPhil Dryburgh from SEPA

Will Dryburgh from SEPA represented Farm and Water Scotland, an initiative to help the farming sector keep on the right side of current legislation.

He said: “We have always found the smallholding community to be very engaged and interested in sustainability.

“We’ve had some very interesting discussions, including the issue of fencing off water courses and slurry management. It’s been a successful day.”

Food writer and campaigner Wendy Barrie gave cookery demonstrations and tastings to capacity audiences.

She said: “I think smallholders are undervalued and do an incredible amount of work for biodiversity – smallholders can feed the planet.

“It’s important to not always think about faster-growing breeds, we need to think about the flavours and the heritage breeds.

“Thinking about grains, it’s not just about the high-gluten, fast growth. Right across the foodstuffs, you can gain healthier foods more sustainably from the kind of foods smallholders are drawn to.”

Event organiser Martin Beard said the move was the right one.

He said: “We have always felt that the festival needed to be a national event, and that it should be an important part of the agricultural calendar in Scotland, and a central, accessible venue is key to that.

“So we were delighted to secure a place at the national agricultural showground for three years.

“We now believe that we were right to take the leap, and clearly so do the many competitors, showcase demonstrators, companies and visitors who came along and supported us.

“We comprehensively beat our best-ever totals in each area. Our mission has always been to “inform, educate and inspire” and we think we achieved that - with no less than five streams of talks running all day, all of them with full and engaged audiences, a busy hall of traders and craftspeople, and some fantastic competitions with hundreds of entries in the goats, sheep and pig classes, not to mention showcases of cattle and equines and some brilliant entries in the Garden Craft and Food competition.”

Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon congratulated everyone involved.

She said: “The Scottish Government is committed to supporting smallholders and the role they can play in delivering our Vision for Agriculture and the sustainable production of high-quality local food for our communities.

“That’s why we provided funding to the 12th Scottish Smallholder Festival to help the organisation move to the flagship national central venue for Scottish agriculture. The move to the new location enables smallholders to become a more visible grassroots part of our agricultural industry bringing much-needed diversity to Scotland’s food supply chain.

“I was delighted to hear the Festival celebrated another year of success on Saturday at its new venue - there was glowing feedback from attendees of all ages, and I am very disappointed to have missed such a fantastic day.

“My congratulations and thanks to the organisers who work tirelessly to host this event. I hope this marks the beginning of a new chapter and bright future for the festival and I look forward to its continued success and hope to attend next year as an avid supporter.”

The 2024 Festival will be held on the 19th of October at the Royal Highland Centre.