Two Scots businesses are in the running to become ‘New Entrant Farm Business of the Year’ in a contest designed to identify people who have overcome barriers in the early part of their farming career.
The Banffshire-based Scottish Goat Meat Company and Lynbreck Croft, located in the Cairngorms National Park, will compete for the NEWBIE award for innovative new entrants against The Horned Beef Company, based in the Lake District.
All three business have overcome key barriers for new entrants in different ways, according to Simon Gadd of the project’s national steering group, adding that they also all know their markets, have a vision for the future and understand how to take advantage of their location.
In being selected as competition finalists, with the chance to win £500 towards the cost of training or an international visit, the Scottish Goat Meat Company was described as providing high-quality, locally reared goat meat direct to customers’ doors. Lynbreck Croft, meanwhile, is a 150-acre mixed habitat croft enterprise in the Cairngorms while The Horned Beef Company farms over 500 acres without using either fertilisers or pesticides.
“Each of the shortlisted farms represents a stellar example of how new entrants innovate to deal with the common hurdles of starting a new farm business,” said Dr Lee-Ann Sutherland from the James Hutton Institute, which oversees the award.
“They show a unique approach to the daunting tasks of gaining access to land, markets and capital, that most new entrants endure.”
The project, which comes under the European Commission-funded NEWBIE scheme is also being run with in eight other European countries.
The UK winner will selected farm union representatives from England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales and announced in early May.
Tesco is offering farmers of the future a 12 month package of training, business planning advice, supply chain experience and networking opportunities.
Vicky attended the interview for this exciting opportunity and will find out in the coming weeks wether she has been chosen to take part as one of the future 15.
The Foundation has been established to help bright, talented, determined young people make their own start in the world of agriculture, whether that’s taking over the family farm, embarking on a new business venture, or entering the industry for the first time.
A place on the programme will give you leadership training, business planning advice, mentoring, and supply chain experience. You also have the opportunity to look beyond our shores at farming in other countries.
WHAT IS THE FUTURE FARMER FOUNDATION?
Funded by Tesco the Foundation is unique in its tailored, candidate-led approach. Successful applicants will be able to choose a programme suited to their own aspirations and business needs.
Richard Marris, Commercial Director, Fresh Foods at Tesco said:
“We’re committed to the success of British agriculture, and we want the next generation of farmers, with all their energy, talent, and dedication, to be working with us for decades to come. Whether it’s guidance on succession planning, advice on financial management, or providing access to a world-leading supply chain, we’ve developed the Future Farmer Foundation to be a strong base from which the farmers of tomorrow can launch themselves onto their chosen paths.”
The British Farming Awards focus on British farmers discovering inspiring stories of people who have changed what they do and how they do it.
The Awards will reward the extraordinary breed of farmers who have made their business a success through sheer determination, grit and foresight.
This award welcomes entries from farmers and their families who have been in the industry for no more than three years.
Are you able to demonstrate resilience, tenacity, and determination in their attempt to pursue their own farm business? Regardless of size or scale, If you are a farmer who has started their business from scratch.
Word from the sponsors - NFU
We understand how difficult starting a new business can be and so the NFU is proud to sponsor the New Entrants Award category and celebrate those that demonstrate the tenacity and determination to pursue their own farming business.
The NFU is the only organisation to continually champion the whole of British Farming at home and abroad providing advice, services and professional representation on the issues that affect farmers most. We ensure your voice gets heard and your issue gets addressed by the right people who can make a difference.
Our regional and local structure is the backbone of the NFU with over 250 local offices and more than 100 farming policy experts all working to support members in the here and now and secure the future of farming. Along with a strong business mind and determination, you can be a part of that future and the NFU is here to support you every step of the way.
Adam Wright, The Scottish Goat Meat Company
It is fair to say that Adam Wright and partner, Victoria Gardiner, have had their fair share of challenges as new entrants to the farming industry.
But it is their shared tenacity and enthusiasm that has ensured they are now a force to be reckoned with.
The idea for goat meat came after Victoria had completed her dissertation in goat management and Adam decided to buy her two as a present for her 21st birthday.
There was a strong local interest from the beginning and over the last 18 months the couple have rapidly increased their predominantly Boer goat meat herd and now have 50 nannies.
They have been selling whole or half carcases and have recently begun producing burgers, sausages and other cuts for their website and under their brand The Scottish Goat Meat Company based at Hillhead Farm, Newmill, Keith.
They also take meat to Scottish farmers’ markets and food festivals and produced £7,000 of goat meat for the Commonwealth Games after being approached. Payment is made upfront by all customers and, at the moment, all the goats are finished after this has been taken.
Adam and Victoria bought their 27-acre hilltop farm last June but the purchase was far from straight forward. After losing out to a starter farm released by the Forestry Commission, they discovered an opportunity to buy Hillhead.
But at the eleventh hour, the agent and seller fell out and the property was taken off the market and with the agent refusing to give vendor details, the couple began trying to find him online.
Adam, who works full-time as an electrician after following advice from his father to gain a trade, says: “We traced his name and eventually found him to be living in Ireland. We wrote a letter and told him who we were, what we wanted to do with the farm and how we were building our business. We sent it recorded delivery but we heard nothing for five weeks.”
Out of the blue the vendor phoned the pair and asked to meet with them at the property after travelling over from Ireland. Hours later the trio had shaken on a deal and now they needed a mortgage.
Refused by the bank, they visited Adam’s building society, who he had been with since a child, and three hours later they walked out with a mortgage in place.
Sadly their happiness was short-lived after 40 of their breeding nannies and their kids were struck down with a fatal virus wiping out 50 per cent of their stock on farm.
Adam says: “It was a huge financial blow and to this day we have no idea what caused it even though we paid for lab and vet testing.
“You would literally be watching them fed at the trough in the field and you would turn your head and there would be another dead.”
Left with just 18 breeding goats, the recovery has been slow. Recently, 30 young kids were bought from a dispersal sale and will be put to the billy later this year. A small flock of breeding ewes have also been purchased to cover any gaps in cash flow between goat meat sales.
The goats are usually finished around 12 months old at around 24kg and then sent to their local butchers – Macbeth’s – who pack and label all the cuts and posts out the meat as part of his online meat sales.
The couple currently live in a caravan on farm as they plough all their money into the farm to build new sheds and renovate the main farmhouse.
Looking to the future, the plan is to increase numbers to 300-head following the construction of the sheds and continue their marketing strategy to strengthen their customer base.
“We hope to expand our customer base across the UK and we hope to inspire other new entrants into pursuing their farming ambitions, no matter how far away they seem.'
The winner will be anounced on awards night 23rd October 2014
Finalists demonstrate a healthy and innovative industry throughout the region
Food and drink businesses around the Highlands & Islands and Cairngorms National Park area have finally discovered whether they’ve made it to the next stage of the industry’s most prestigious awards as organisers of the Highlands & Islands Food & Drink Awards (HIFDA) announced the 41 shortlisted finalists today (Monday 26th).
Over the past few months, the 14 judges have read their way through dozens of written submissions, sampled a variety of the best of Scottish produce ranging from buffalo, goat and salmon, salad dressings, biscuits and cheese to ice creams, cordials, whiskies and craft beers, and deliberated their conclusions at length until the winning businesses were agreed upon.
Shortlisted businesses for the 12 awards come from all corners of the region from Keith to Kiltarlity, from Shetland to Skye, from Forres to Fort William and from Dalwhinnine to Dornoch and Dunoon - a promising sign for the continuing breadth of talent in the industry.
This year the judging panel was chaired by Stephen Rankin, director of UK Sales at the Awards’ headline sponsor Gordon & MacPhail. The judges comprised experienced individuals from all sectors of the food and drink industry, including Head Chef Charlie Lockley of the Michelin starred Boath House near Nairn and representatives from industry organisation Scotland Food & Drink and Highlands and Islands Enterprise.
Chair Stephen Rankin commented: “It was a genuine pleasure to chair the judging panel again. The expertise, integrity and professional approach of the judges was outstanding and the diversity and extremely high quality of submissions was an on-going reminder of the imagination, passion and skill which is prevalent throughout the industry.
“I would like to thank the many companies and individuals who entered the Awards and congratulate them on their submissions. As HIFDA grows in stature, more and more companies are keen to gain the recognition an award brings. This obviously makes the judging process more challenging; but it really does signify that being shortlisted for an award is truly a fantastic accolade.
“It was fantastic to review such a diverse range of entries from a brilliant blend of well-established companies to youngsters and new businesses just starting out in the industry. The latter group’s bravery and willingness to take on responsibility has to be admired and recognised.
“Because of the high level of entries this year, I would like to highlight that top level feedback is available for those who have been unsuccessful in their submission, and I would urge these businesses to take advantage of this unique opportunity.
“I’d like to wish good luck to all the shortlisted finalists and I hope to see them all at the Awards Dinner and Ceremony in October.”
Charlie Lockley was a first-time member of the judging panel this year. "I was honoured to be asked to be a judge this year." he said. "I didn't really know what to expect or what was expected of me, but I found the process and the experience 'behind closed doors' a real eye-opener and an informative learning curve.
"In summary, I can confirm that a judges' job is a pretty tough one - but definitely enjoyable and inspirational! The high number of quality entries lead to a lot of debate amongst the judges before finalists and winners could be decided on. This was particularly the case when it came to sampling the products for the Best Drink and New Product Awards - the variety and quality of the products entered this year shows how creative and knowledgeable the food and drink industry is through the region.
"It was a highlight for me to learn about the great work which is going on in the area’s restaurant scene - much of which goes unrecognised. These people, who are are so passionate and enthusiastic about what they are doing, put such extraordinary effort into running excellent restaurants and getting their names out there. I can't wait to go and visit them for myself and to see (and taste) the results of their hard work first-hand."
The Highlands & Islands Food & Drink Awards complement the work of the Highlands and Islands Food & Drink Forum and are supported by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE). They celebrate excellence and achievement in the industry and recognise industry players at the top of their game.
Crystal Mackay, HIE’s Development Manager for Food & Drink said: “HIE is extremely pleased to see such a high level and quality of entries received from across the region for the Highlands and Islands Food and Drink Awards. Our fantastic natural larder is a key strength for the region and growing the food and drink sector is a priority for the agency. We welcome and thank all the dedicated companies across the Highlands and Islands and Cairngorms National Park area who entered and we wish all the shortlisted companies the best of luck in the forthcoming awards.”
Shortlisted finalists have been announced in 12 categories including Best Drink, Export, Independent Food & Drink Retailer, New Product and Restaurant of the Year. The winners of two additional categories not open for general entry, namely Ambassador of the Year and the Judges’ Award, will be made at the discretion of the judges and revealed at the Awards Ceremony.
The winners of all the awards will be announced at the Awards Dinner and Ceremony at the Kingsmills Hotel, Inverness on Friday, 24th October. The event attracts around 300 representatives from the region’s top food and drink businesses who gather annually to celebrate all that is best in the industry in the Highlands and Islands and Cairngorms National Park area.
The evening’s proceedings will be hosted by popular presenter and comedian Fred MacAulay – back by popular demand! Tickets cost £75 +VAT and can be purchased online at www.hifoodanddrink.co.uk.
Based in Banffshire we provide fresh, high quality, healthy, Scottish goat meat direct to your door.