'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'

By John Scott

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 late September.

Agri-tourism in Scotland has over the past couple of 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 delegates in attendance who will have completed personal development prior to attending.

Without 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 you 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 build on the same site and in a similar style to an older watermill on the farm and 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 spin-off benefits we hadn’t anticipated, direct sales of breeding cattle and sheep have increased through guests who farm that 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 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 the every opportunity to join the business if they wish so 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 in being 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 years 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 years 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...