After successful within the midst of a worldwide pandemic, Alison and Fergus Younger of Old Leckie Farm have gone from energy to energy of their quest for sustainability and self-sufficiency.
Nestled quietly on the base of the Gargunnock Hills, just some miles west of Stirling, the 122ha farm has remained within the household for greater than 100 years.
Since taking up, the pair have repeatedly juggled numerous concepts and initiatives to get their ever-evolving enterprise mannequin nearer to their self-sufficiency targets – with out the necessity for subsidies.
See additionally: Farmers Weekly Awards 2021: Diversification Farmer of the Year
“Lately we’ve been working on an environmental statement for the farm,” says Alison.
“We really want to be transparent about our produce and be on the front-foot against what seems like constant negativity associated with farming.”
The key driver for growing this technique has been understanding the motivations of their new and repeat clients.
“Our customers are motivated to buy from us because they feel they are making positive and sustainable consumer choices – it’s something they can take pride in, just as we take pride in our produce.”
- 122ha owned
- 81ha rented
- 500 ewes
- 20 highland cattle
- 65 suckler cows
- 1,400 laying hens
- 0.4ha of garlic
- 0.4ha of potatoes
- Six-bedroom self-catering lodging
- Two-bedroom bothy in growth
Highs, lows, and new initiatives
Upgrading their native supply service of eggs, beef, potatoes and minimize salad luggage, the newest addition to the farm comes within the type of a completely electrical zero-emissions van.
With about 50% of their produce being offered instantly, this couldn’t have come at a greater time.
The van will assist them to maintain on high of the increase in enterprise, precipitated largely by the pandemic, as they’ve seen a 40% enhance of their direct buyer base – all of which they’ve managed to retain.
Along with the brand new enterprise, the pair additionally took on greater than 80ha of latest land – one thing that Fergus was significantly enthusiastic about.
“It has been a really good farming year for us – we managed to make the best hay that we’ve had in years. We always want to try to bring something new – that’s why we planted an acre of garlic, which we hope will be a success.”
Taking on the brand new land hasn’t been totally plain crusing, nevertheless, as they misplaced two of their Highland cattle to the tick-borne illness often known as redwater, or bovine babesiosis, which Fergus places right down to being a “sad part of the challenge when you take on new grazing that you haven’t managed before.”
Knock-on results of the pandemic offered additional challenges, and led to a change of butcher and a scarcity of refrigerated transport automobiles and drivers.
“The supply chain suddenly becomes very vulnerable, and it makes things quite stressful.”
“It turned out to be a mixed blessing in the end – we found a new butcher, changed abattoirs, and hired a refrigerated trailer.”
The larger image
With so many initiatives within the pipeline, Alison and Fergus hope to make use of each their produce and premise as a reputable approach of selling the broader Scottish agri-tourism trade.
They’re constructing a brand new two-bedroom self-catering bothy, to accompany their current six-bedroom lodge, and hope to develop a tasting tour aspect for his or her friends.
Now that Covid restrictions have eased, they’re trying ahead to welcoming volunteers from the Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) again to the farm – it’s a mission they’re obsessed with, and have efficiently supported for a few years, internet hosting volunteers from all around the world.
As a last phrase of encouragement, they stress that they didn’t count on to win, however the entire awards course of was a incredible expertise. “The awards night was a brilliant evening, and winning was the cherry on the cake.”