Case study: William Willis, Glasgoforest Farm, Aberdeenshire, Scotland
International learning was in evidence at Forest Farm Dairy, run by ‘Farmer’s Weekly Young Farmer of the Year’ for 2015, William Willis. William’s parents bought their family farm in 1989, and William has been farming in partnership with his mother since 2006, expanding their dairy herd from 80 to 150 cows in that time. His younger brother Angus has joined the business within the past year. William benefited from capital grant funding available from the Scottish Government for new entrant farmers to expand and update the dairy shed. This required William to have been the majority shareholder in the business for less than 5 years.
The NEWBIE project team saw the new organic ‘milk vending machines’, inspired by those operating in England and Italy, which have enabled direct marketing to consumers. Customers can buy plastic or glass bottles which they fill from the machine, dispensing pasturised milk freshly produced on the farm that day. William indicated that around 15% of milk produced on the farm is sold directly to customers through the vending machine. Glass bottles can be brought back to re-fill therefore reducing plastic waste. There is also a viewing window to watch the cows being milked, which is popular and important for public engagement with farming practice.
William explained that he benefits from participation in a dairy discussion group based in central Scotland, for knowledge transfer and innovative ideas, and that he actively contacts other farmers who are industry-leaders to gather their advice and practical knowledge. William is planning to expand the retail side of the business, which may involve adding a processing room and retail space. As a successor, William is an example of the innovation that young people bring to farming operations. Nonetheless, he anticipates that without greater access to land, in part as a result of the current allocation of EU farming support (i.e. the Single Farm Payment), there will be ongoing challenges facing younger and new entrants to agriculture in Scotland.
The NEWBIE team continues to build networks between newcomers, farm successors and their advisors in Scotland, and across Europe, in order to increase the ability of farm successors and newcomers to agriculture to develop successful farm businesses.