Case study: Ross & Kirsten Williams, Upper Tullochbeg Farm, Aberdeenshire, Scotland
Kirsten Williams is a farm advisor and livestock expert for SAC Consulting, as well as coordinating the New Entrant’s programme for the Scottish Farm Advisory Service. As a new entrant farmer herself, Kirsten talked about how they built their pedigree sheep flock, and the opportunities for ‘starter farms’ offered for 10 year fixed-term tenancies through Scotland’s National Forest Estate. Kirsten and her husband Ross have accessed land through a special programme set up by Forest Enterprise Scotland, which rents land to new entrants on a ten year basis, enabling them to build up their business before moving on to a longer term tenancy and larger scale of farm, if a suitable tenancy becomes available.
During the NEWBIE project team visit to the farm, Kirsten reflected on the challenges faced by her and her husband as new entrant farmers. Whilst both came from farming families, there was no possibility of access to land through farm succession, and they applied for several tenancies prior to being successfully awarded the 10 year tenancy by the Forest Enterprise Scotland in April 2013. Now that they are over half-way through this fixed term tenancy, they are continuing to search for available tenancies locally where they could relocate before 2023. Recent policy changes in Scotland have led to a reduction in tenancy availability, and Kirsten and Ross would like increase their acreage to fit with their expanding business, which now includes suckler cows, pedigree and commercial sheep, and a turkey rearing enterprise.
Kirsten and Ross also continue to work full-time, employed in the agricultural sector but with jobs that require a lot of travel. They benefit from the farming networks that they have locally and internationally, in terms of sharing knowledge, socialising, and for marketing, but early mornings and late nights are a daily reality. The NEWBIE project team were very impressed with Kirsten’s enthusiasm, knowledge and positive spirit as a new entrant farmer.