Scotland’s New Agritourism Monitor Farmers Announced
Four new agritourism monitor farms have been formally announced by Deputy First Minister Shona Robison, at the Scottish Agritourism Conference in Perth.
Almost forty farming and crofting businesses applied to become new monitor farming businesses, with applications submitted from every part of rural Scotland.
Eleven businesses and their local community members were interviewed about their future plans for agritourism and farm retail growth over a two-week period, with four successful businesses selected.
The Agritourism Monitor Farms Programme represents a three-year investment of £440,000 made by the Scottish Government to support the delivery of growth targets as set out in Scotland’s National Agritourism Strategy including bringing around 300 new farms and crofts into the sector and increasing the value of the sector to £250 million per annum from £170 million per annum.
The new monitor farms are:-
Highlands and Islands Enterprise Area
Fearn Farm, in Easter Ross, which produces Scotch beef, Scotch lamb and cereals.
The Scott Family will focus on developing a new agritourism venture based around food from the farm and wool, improving the sales performance of their existing accommodation venture, developing an overall succession and business plan for integrating the next generation into the business and using the programme to increase international and domestic tourism income in Easter Ross and the wider Highland region.
The Scottish Enterprise Area
Westerton Farmers, in Aberdeenshire, which grows a range of vegetable and cereals.
Fiona Smith and her family will focus on developing the existing farm retail business in the hope of increasing footfall, building a brand for the business, investigating options for a new cook school and/or food related tours enterprise. They also hope to prepare a whole business plan to deal with changes in 2024 in the farming business and use the programme to increase international and domestic tourism income in Aberdeenshire and the wider North-East region.
The Scottish Enterprise Area
Kinclune Estate and Organic Farm, in Angus, which produces Scotch beef and Scotch lamb.
Aylwin Pillai and Virginia Osborne-Antolovi and family will focus on sharing their experience of a major investment project, with building about to start on a new wedding and events venue. They hope to build up occupancy and sales on a newly opened accommodation property, develop new travel trade focused tours based on the history of Highland ponies in Scotland, share best practice and existing knowledge on wildlife, environment and biodiversity with the agritourism sector, develop a business plan for the future of the business with a clear long-terms plan for succession, and to drive up domestic and international tourism income in the Tay Country area.
The South of Scotland Enterprise Area
Ernespie Farm, in Dumfries and Galloway, which is a dairy farm.
David McMiken and team will focus on developing Ernespie into a destination by increasing footfall, consider market positioning and focus, increasing international visitors and becoming travel trade ready, working on a business plan to integrate more of the farm into the visitor experience, and driving up domestic and international tourism income in the Dumfries and Galloway and South of Scotland area.
In addition, two other farms will become satellite monitor farms and will host one monitor farm visit each year.
Cairns Farm, in West Lothian, is a new wedding and events venue which will focus on succession and the future of the overall farming and agritourism business, increasing income from the existing assets, and being a pivot for agritourism growth in the Central Belt area.
Long Island Retreats in the Outer Hebrides is a croft developing new travel trade, food and drink and accommodation ventures. The focus will be on inspiring crofting businesses across Scotland to start up and develop agritourism and farm retail, being a pivot for agritourism growth in the Outer Hebrides, establishing a vibrant new enterprise and increasing turnover.
An additional forty businesses are being supported as part of the Core Community Group, receiving targeted support and advice. Based on the quality of applications received, all of the monitor farm applicants who will not become the monitor farmers, were able to take up a place on the Core Community Group. An additional nine businesses will now be able to apply for the remaining Core Community Group places.
Latest statistics for the sector announced at the conference are that there are now officially 632 farms and crofts in Scotland with an agritourism or farm retail business, up by just over 100 in the last twelve months from 531. Some of these are new entrants and others have now listed with www.visitscotland.com and are now being counted in official figures. The 2030 travel trade target for 40 farms working with the international trade has already been reached following a drive to by Scottish Agritourism and Visit Scotland over the last year to support businesses to have a travel trade offering. This has increased from 15 travel trade ready businesses in 2022.
The Deputy First Minister is responsible for the Rural Delivery Plan and agritourism is set to continue to play a key part in the sustainable growth of rural Scotland. After announcing the new monitor farming families and welcoming them to the stage, the Deputy First Minister presented the new monitor farmers with a framed map showing the locations of the monitor farms and core community group members.
Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Finance Shona Robison said:
“Scotland’s rural economy is bursting with talent and potential, contributing £38 billion a year to the economy, and these new Monitor Farms will play a key role in that. They anchor their local communities, boost growth, encourage innovation and learning, and allow farm businesses to learn from each other, as well as government about what works well in agritourism which contributes £170 million to the Scottish economy – a figure predicted to rise to £250 million by 2030.
“Within this context I am delighted the Scottish Government is backing the Monitor Farms programme with more than £440,000 over three years, benefitting not just the four new Monitor Farms, but 400 associated businesses right across rural Scotland and the wider benefits that brings.”
Caroline Millar, Facilitator for the new programme said, “The new programme is off to a great start, with double the number of applicants coming forwarded than we expected. The quality of businesses applying and the variety of ideas and innovation being presented is extremely impressive and we look forward to the new programme now getting started and seeing the results of the programme supporting the national Agritourism Strategy targets.”