Agri-tourism in Scotland has over the past few years really taken off, driven by Nuffield Scholar Caroline Millar (a real force of nature) and her team, it now has co-ordination and direction and those involved in the sector meet annually at a conference in Perth in November.

As we cruise into autumn and with the World Cup in full flow, it’s a case of balancing the day job with viewing matches both on the TV and in person for a couple of matches. It would be fair to say we are realistic about our chances in the competition and have booked flights to allow us to view earlier pool matches rather than the knockout stages.

Following a few days in France, Fiona and I are heading to Tuscany in Italy on a Scottish Agri-tourism learning journey, which will no doubt provide an acceptable blend of business and pleasure whilst enjoying the sun in early October.

Agri-tourism in Scotland has over the past few years really taken off, driven by Nuffield Scholar Caroline Millar (a real force of nature) and her team, it now has co-ordination and direction and those involved in the sector meet annually at a conference in Perth in November.

It pulls together those who have been involved in the industry for years, others like us who are relatively new to it, those who want to get involved and want to learn more, and this year there will be younger funded delegates in attendance who will have completed personal development prior to attending.

Without a doubt, this event is now a highlight of our calendar year. The positivity from speakers and delegates, which is often missing in our industry, is extremely uplifting and sends us home on the countdown to Christmas with a spring in our step!

If anyone’s interested in learning more about the conference which is being held on 21st and 22nd November use the following link and we will see you there. Scottish Agritourism Conference 2023 - Scottish Agritourism.

Our own foray into this area is with self-catering holiday accommodation, we built on the same site and in a similar style to an older watermill on the farm. Now a house and cottage which gives options of sleeping fourteen if taken as one or ten and four if split.

It opened just as Covid kicked in, which was less than ideal but this summer has been full and it also has steady bookings for autumn and winter which is great!

Obviously, we want to make money from this enterprise but there have been spinoff benefits we hadn’t anticipated; direct sales of breeding cattle and sheep have increased through guests who farm and have bought following a farm tour.

We now have a better understanding of the offering in terms of tourism in our local area and we have also forged links with local suppliers with high-quality products used in gift hampers which guests get on arrival.

It's fair to say we now have an appetite for more, our core business will likely remain beef, lamb and cereals but we are keen to scope out what opportunities there are to develop our business further to reduce the financial reliance we have on our land-based enterprises.

Succession is also on the horizon for us as a family and if it’s that close it should be a topic of discussion around the kitchen table, we certainly touch on it but with the kids ranging in age from 15-22 we don’t want to add any pressure before they are ready.

However, we want to able to give every opportunity to join the business if they wish to, reviewing and possibly expanding our options regarding routes to market makes sense.

My grandfather handed over responsibility early to Dad when he was just 24 and he retired in an era when farmers were far less hands-on, Dad’s done the same for me but it was a more gradual process and instead of retiring, he’s been there for support which, although I wouldn’t always admit it, has been extremely valuable.

There’s no doubt you appreciate the older generation more when you begin to experience the young pup or indeed pups in my case nipping at your heels and I’m certainly aiming for the ‘embrace the energy’ rather than ‘sulk in the corner’ approach.

At the moment we have three generations involved on a daily basis and while it can on occasion be challenging this isn’t something that will last forever, we are extremely fortunate to be able to do so and will cherish it for as long as we can.

From a farming perspective, things have been and are interesting, to say the least, we are extremely glad to see money coming from sheep, cattle, and barley sales over the past few weeks, interest rates are really making things fairly challenging from a financial point of view.

Our ‘Great from Grass’ breeding sheep sale went well with 90% of the rams finding new homes and 95 averaging £815 and all gimmers away at an average of £177 for 183 which we were fairly happy with.

Reconnaissance missions to ram sales throughout the country including Carlisle, Kelso, and three on-farm options have seen us gather together an exciting team for this year's mating season. It would be fair to say some may struggle with the preseason fitness regime more than others but we hope to have them fit for tupping and are keeping our fingers crossed that they can integrate themselves into our grass and forage-based system.

On the cereals front, this year's harvest has provided further proof that I don’t have the right genetic makeup to be a cereal farmer.

Through sheer fluke, we managed to get Wheat, Oats, and Barley cut and into the shed in decent condition but my marketing of grain this year certainly hasn’t been what it might have been due to rising input costs, especially fertilizer which was bought on a rising (not peak but very close) market.

Anyway, it seems to be leaving the farm at a decent rate, bar the odd load which has the return-to-sender label based on quality and will be appreciated by livestock throughout the winter.

Au revoir for now folks, I’m off to France for some rugby leaving the other two generations to sail the ship for a while..