Sir, – I have just returned from a visit to Slovenia, staying at three different agro-tourism farms.

This was my third visit to this lovely small central European country and the first time I had the chance to talk to farmers and visit a farmer co-op owned creamery, complete with its own supermarket selling mainly local produce.

The scale of farming I saw was tiny and clearly tourism and catering was often the real economic base of the business. I’ve been fed delicious home-cured ham, farm-produced beef, eggs, yoghurt, honey and wine, even home-distilled schnapps. The local farm products have been promoted with pride and presented to perfection.

These people would find it unbelievable that any beef or sheep producer would not be eating their own produce.

I can hear many of your readers muttering 'subsistence farming’ and, as an ordinary Scottish farmer, I am not suggesting this is a blueprint for us. But I can tell you these ‘subsistence farmers’ are living in lovely modern houses, driving good cars, and, although undoubtedly working hard, seem 'comfortable in their skins' and in tune with their natural environment of which they are justifiably proud.

The countryside, as a whole, was well-populated and apparently prosperous with many small (and not so small) sawmills and factories.

So, perhaps we can learn something about sustainable rural development, nature-friendly farming and its basis in public policy from some other parts of Europe rather than rushing off to New Zealand, Australia and the USA to embrace the ‘size is everything’ philosophy.

Then I remembered we are too late – this is the political system we (including many farmers) have voted to leave – a decision which we, apparently, must never reconsider.

Joan Mitchell



Newton Stewart.