With 16,000 farmers the length and breadth of Scotland, there’s a rich seam of talent in our country.
And it’s that seam Eilidh MacPherson tapped into to create her latest book, 300 Farmers of Scotland.
The editor of a bi-monthly magazine focusing on the farming industry, Eilidh used her contacts to get started on the book.
She personally knew around 80 farmers who are featured and word of mouth helped her discover even more who had stories to tell.
The compilation provides a glimpse of the innovation used by today’s farmers to ensure they not only survive but thrive.
Eilidh said: “I found it really interesting finding out what the farmers are doing differently these days – it was very enjoyable.
“The truth is I’ve only just scratched the surface as there are around 16,000 farmers in Scotland.
“However, I’ve already started on the second installment and I’m hoping that will be ready in time for Christmas this year.”
300 Farmers of Scotland was released in December and won rave reviews.
Given its rich farming heritage, it is perhaps little surprise that Clydesdale is so heavily featured within its 280 glossy pages.
Lanarkshire covers 224,200 hectares, of which almost 170,000 is farmland and there are a staggering 2218 farms including 85 beef, 286 specialist sheep, 348 specialist beef, 39 specialist poultry, 247 mixed and 866 general cropping.
Understandably, therefore, Eilidh had the pick of the crop for her book.
Among those featured in this first installment are Allan Wight from Midlock, Crawford, Geoff Hewitt from Quothquan and David Lowry from New Steadings Farm in Lanark.
Each has their own story to tell about farming locally and how it has changed.
Allan Wight’s grandfather was a shepherd at Midlock in the early 1900s but he bought the 2800 acres in 1924. When the tenant farmer moved out in 1927, Allan’s grandfather and father moved in.
Midlock is now renowned in show and sale rings across the country for its blackface, blues, mules and Texels.
Although Allan jnr is now in charge at Midlock, Allan snr still lambs and shepherds a hirsel at Glespin, the hill his grandfather first herded more than a century ago.
In the book, he said: “I lambed the Grains when I was 12 years old – taking three weeks off school to do so.
“I did my 65th lambing season in spring 2016!”
Geoff Hewitt came across the Irish Sea with his parents and two brothers in 1982 when they purchased Roadhead Farm.
They have since gone on to purchase three adjoining farms, totalling 985 acres.
Geoff manages the farm’s dairy and feed business, his brother Mark runs the milk processing plant while Brian runs construction company BHC Ltd, which erected all the farm buildings.
Registered as livestock feed merchants for the last 12 years, it’s not the only unique aspect of their farm.
In the book, Geoff revealed: “A rabbi visits thre times a week to see the cows being milked.
“They won’t take Kosher milk from any cow that has had a caesarean or been operated on.
“We do receive a premium for it but more work is involved as it is milked completely separately from the normal milk.”
After being bottled, labelled and branded Kosher, it leaves Roadhead destined for shops in London and Manchester.
Fellow Irishman David Lowry moved to Scotland with his wife Joy when land prices in Ireland soared to £15,000 per acre.
Instead, they purchased Newsteadings Farm for just over £2000 per acre.
Following a career in the livestock auction trade, David also found a niche at Lanark auction mart.
“I hadn’t intended to carry on auctioneering in Scotland but the opportunity arose and I only have to travel three miles to the other side of Lanark to work,” David explained.
Also telling their own unique stories in the book are Alastair MacArthur from Elvanfoot, the Taylor family from Thankerton, Michael Shannon from Thankerton Camp, Tom French from Crawfordjohn, Carey Coombs from Weston Dunsyre, Ian Minto from Townhead, Dolphinton, Kelly Blackwood from Crawfordjohn, Lesley Sloan from Thankerton, Russell Gray from Langside, Kirkfieldbank and the Clark brothers from Blackhill and Lesmahagow.
300 Farmers of Scotland is out now, priced £25.
Eilidh speaks from experience
Eilidh MacPherson combines hill sheep farming at Marbrack – between Ayr and Castle Douglas – with her husband Richard Nixon.
Together they farm 2500 acres carrying 1200 Blackface sheep.
Eilidh is also editor of a now bi-monthly publication, Farming Country magazine, which was known as farmingscotland.com when it was free.
Her last book From Thistle to Fern, which was published a decade ago, featured Scots who had emigrated to New Zealand and set up the High Country Sheep Stations.
Eilidh is a hill sheep and beef farmers’ daughter from the Isle of Skye and headed off overseas once she graduated from Edinburgh in agriculture.
She spent six seasons as a professional sheep shearer, employing Kiwis on Skye, then headed to the Antipodes for the winter.
She managed a lamb group, worked for Scotch Quality Beef and Lamb and then as an independent livestock buyer.
While in New Zealand, Eilidh wrote full time for the New Zealand Farmer for a couple of years – covering Southland and South Otago.
She also freelanced for a number of other titles including High Country Herald, Shearing Magazine, Southland Times and the Otago Southland Farmer.
Farmingscotland.com magazine was launched in September 2003, on her return from overseas – a free monthly title.
It changed its name to Farming Country in 2012 so it could be sold in newsagents and shops across Scotland, Northern England and Northern Ireland.
300 Farmers of Scotland is available now from local outlets, priced £25. Follow Eilidh on Facebook at farmingscotland.com or Twitter @farmingscotland.