2 agri-tourism monitor farms announced in Scotland

Two Scottish farms have been selected to develop their agri-tourism business and encourage others to follow their example.

Working with other farms, estates and crofts, the two new agri-tourism monitor farms located in East Lothian and Dunbartonshire will help to improve their profitability, productivity and sustainability through practical demonstrations and sharing of best practice.

Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing made the announcement while visiting one of the farms at Castleton Farm, North Berwick.

Ewing said: “We want farmers and crofters to become more productive, profitable and sustainable, adapting to new practices and willing to innovate in order to secure business viability for future generations.

“Shantron and Castleton Farms are fantastic examples of farmers developing agri-tourism, which has not only driven new income streams, but has also generated thousands of visitors on to farms to learn about food and how it is produced.

“That is why I have asked them to engage with their peers to share their experience, best practice and facilitate discussions within the sector.

I hope others will follow their lead, helping to improve the sectors overall sustainability and profitability for the next generation.

“This investment in skills and knowledge sharing will contribute to the continued growth of the vibrant agri-tourism sector in Scotland, which is a key part of the new Food Tourism Strategy.”

The farms

Castleton Farm is a cereals farm in North Berwick where Jo and Stuart McNicol have recently developed a new cafe on cliffs overlooking the sea.

The new agritourism business opened in June 2018. Jo works full time in the business and also runs an events business called Castleton Events, organising weddings and other high-end events on the farm.

Stuart is a former regional Chairman of NFUS, is a Scottish Enterprise Rural Leader and has been a participant in the Scottish Enterprise Planning to Succeed programme.

Stuart McNicol said: “We have a cereals farm and an existing events business running weddings and events on site, but would like to develop the agri-tourism, local food and educational element of the experience, to create a year-round destination.”

“Part of this development is our new venture of running a cafe – Drift,” added Jo. “So we applied to become monitor farmers to gain support, ideas and knowledge from our peers to help maximise the potential of this new business.

“We also wish to share our learnings with others and take them on a journey with us as we grow our business.”

Anne and Bobby Lennox

The Lennox family runs a 1,500ha hill sheep farm in Dunbartonshire.

Aside from their 1,400 black face ewes and 20 outwintered suckler cows, the family run two self-catering cottages. They are also in the process of setting up a luxury glamping business.

The family also wishes to develop paid farm tours and develop farm experiences such as having tourists pay to watch or take part in lambing, shearing, dyking, mustering, etc.

Bobby Lennox said: “We wish to be agri-tourism monitor farmers so we can work with others to learn how to make money from selling the farm experience, in a way that offers a unique day out for the tourist and is financially lucrative for ourselves.

We have been in both farming and tourism for a long time but we feel that by combining the two much more smartly, we can develop a distinctive and innovative agri-tourism product in the Scottish tourism market.

“As monitor farmers, we hope that other farmers can also learn alongside us on how to tell and sell their farming story much more effectively.”