Meet our Farmer Ambassadors
Farmers are a vital part of the solution to the challenges of climate change, nature loss and ill-health we all face.
In May, we invited farmers and crofters in Scotland to apply to become Soil Association Farmer Ambassadors, to receive free video training and learn to share their nature-friendly farming stories with other farmers, the public and policy makers.
The successful eleven will join 13 Farmer Ambassadors from the rest of UK in October, for video training with journalist and broadcaster Anna Jones and filmmaker Alex Price of Just Farmers.
Soil Association Scotland director Aoife Behan welcomed them, saying: “Scotland’s farmers and crofters are a vital part of the solution to the challenges of climate change, nature loss and ill-health we all face. By producing food in ways that nurture people, the environment and the rural economy, they meet those challenges head-on. We want to give those farmers the tools to show people how they do it.
“We are proud to welcome such a brilliant, diverse bunch into the programme, and look forward to seeing and sharing what they produce after the training in October.”
We can’t wait to hear their stories. In the meantime, meet our Farmer Ambassadors!
Helen O’ Keefe
Middleton Croft, Elphin, Sutherland
Helen farms seven acres across three crofts near Elphin in Sutherland, with shares in 3,700 acres of rough common grazing at Assynt. She has a sheep enterprise, poultry for eggs, fruit trees and some veg, which she sells through an onsite café and farmshop, as well as a new online food hub.
Helen says: “Small scale crofters need a voice to explain the environmental and community benefits of crofting. And we need role-models for how we can produce quality, local food on smallholdings, common ground and marginal land.”
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Barnside Farm, Duns, Scottish Borders
Jessica is one quarter of Team Walker, comprising mum Andrea, dad Charley and brother Tom. Farmers Weekly Grassland Managers of the year, they farm 625 acres of commercial and pedigree organic beef and sheep in a holistic system, keeping them outdoors year-round.
Jessica says: “I would like to show our grazing management practices, and how we approach farming for the environment whilst maintaining a profitable business. I feel as though my generation has not been shown farming in an appropriate light and I would like to help change this.”
Peelham Farm, Foulden, Berwickshire
Denise farms 650 acres organically in partnership with her husband Chris and son Angus. They have cattle, farm pigs and store sheep and grow cereals in rotation for the pigs. They have an on-farm butchery and charcuterie facility and sell organic meat products directly to retail outlets and end-users.
Denise says: “I have a lot of experience and knowledge to share from 30 years of farming here at Peelham, which includes learning how to market and to sell direct. I am also an ecologist, and bring understanding of farm habitat restoration and ecosystem functioning into the mix.”
Howemill, Huntly, Abderdeenshire
Last year, Nikki and her husband James set up Grampian Grazers, starting with their 18 acres and small herd of native breed cattle, in an agroforestry system. They are working with other landowners to expand their capacity and grow their herd.
Nikki says: “We are mob grazing our cattle and would be keen to show the benefits not only to our livestock, but in promoting biodiversity. Our native breeds do a great job in turning the rich and diverse swards and tree leaves into what we think is some of the best beef money can buy.”
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Mainhill and Swinside Farms, Scottish Borders
Matt is an organic beef farmer and LANTRA industry champion, with 96 acres of his own, and almost 1000, with sheep, that he farms with his father. He comes from a farming family, with a soil scientist grandfather and two uncles and a brother who also farm.
Matt says: “I would like other farmers and policy makers to see organic grassland management as a sustainable way of farming in the future, providing both food security and environmental benefits. I would also like to make the general public more aware of the good stories from agriculture.”
Balliemore Farm, Isle of Kerrara, Oban
Gillian runs an 800-acre family farm with her husband and two small boys, whilst also being the island’s post lady. She has 450 sheep, eight Dexter-cross cows, eight weaners, 30 hens and two troublesome ducks. She sells through an online famers market and from the farm.
Gillian says: “We absolutely have to get better at promoting ourselves, our products and our farms. We have to educate people about how we get our food to their table, how we look after our animals, how we try and plant as many trees and wild flowers as we can, all while trying to stay financially solvent-ish, raise our families and hopefully leave the farms and land in some sort of good order for the next generation. It’s a pretty big juggling act.”
Newmiln Farm, Perth
Hugh and his wife Sascha farm almost 1000 acres of lowland with cattle, sheep, hens, pigs, wheat and oats, having persuaded Hugh’s father to go organic in 2000. They have a farm butchery and host farm tours and school visits, employing 12 people overall.
Hugh says: “I think this is a great opportunity to show people under the bonnet of our commercial but customer-focussed organic farm, and the public benefits we get from building more plants and animals into our systems.”
Mossend Farm, Peterhead, Aberdeenshire
New entrants Louise and her husband farm 110 acres of mixed arable and grazed cattle. As a self-employed rural consultant as well, Louise focusses on maximising potential and profit through mixed livestock and arable, as well as improving wildlife habitats. She is also partner in a forestry business.
Louise says: “I feel it’s important to show the link between British farming, nature and wildlife: how we incorporate certain farming practices to work towards a greener future and help with climate change. It’s also important for farmers to share experiences and practices with each other.”
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Cowbog Farm, near Jedburgh, Scottish Borders
The Wilson family have been Roxburghe Estate tenants on 260-acre Cowbog farm for three generations, and farm a further 300 acres. They have the oldest herd of Pedigree Herefords in Scotland, an arable business focussing on malting barley, riverside wetland and some elusive Barn Owls.
Robert says: “We are passionate about sharing all aspects of our farm and this opportunity would let us share it with a wider audience. We must reconnect consumers back to the source and explain our side of the story, openly, honestly and with pride.”
Lynbreck Croft, Tomintoul, Grantown-on-Spey
New entrants to farming, Lynn Cassells and Sandra Baer own and farm 150 acres in the Cairngorms, producing pasture and tree leaf-fed Highland Beef, regeneratively grazed rare breed pork, free range eggs and honey. They sell direct via subscription-based clubs and seasonal meat boxes and have a butchery on site.
Lynn says: “We would like to show that farming with nature can go hand in hand with running a business that pays the bills.”
Balbirnie Home Farms, Fife
Johnnie farms 3335 acres of mixed cereals and vegetables, beef cattle and forestry, in partnership with his father and a team of six farm staff. Balbirnie was chosen as AHDB’s Strategic Cereal Farm in Scotland this year.
Johnnie says: “We're investing in regenerative agriculture and the integration of enterprises, including arable crops, livestock and forestry. I would like to see all farmers reducing tillage, reducing inputs, enhancing the environment and making a profit.”