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Several highland cows graving in a grassy field with a stream running through it and hills beyond

We have successfully piloted 7 opportunities on the National Forest Estate for new entrants to farming.

The pilot scheme was designed  to provide “first rung” opportunities – essentially blocks of land only with no houses or farm building to help kick start a new generation of farmers.

Pilot schemes

With a simple application process designed to favour new entrants, it asks only four questions - new entrant status (includes progressors), planned farming practices and how they fit with predetermined outputs, exit strategy and rental offer.

Six of the pilot offerings went to new entrants and one to an established farmer.Established farmers may be better placed to deliver the range of outcome desired in particular locations – in this case, one of the lettings was a large expanse of blanket bog where the grazing prescription dictated grazing a specific number of animals for a limited period during the summer months. In this case a local farmer was best placed to deliver.

A Scottish Government working group has been set up to help maximise the amount of publically owned land used to help the farmers of the future start their career in the industry. Consisting of representatives from Government, public bodies, the farming industry and people who have experience of being a new entrant into the industry, the group (which drew on our experience of new entrant lettings) has now drawn up a report for Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing.

Meanwhile our starter farm initiative continues to be successful with a tenant for the 9th starter farm being secured late last year. The Woodfold farm, near Rothiemay in Huntly is run by John Matheson, a self-employed agricultural contractor from the village of Undy, close to Ellon, and his partner Fiona Taylor, a primary school teacher from Ellon.

Man standing in a grassy field looking at camera, surrounded by cows who are trying to get into a bag of food

Woodfold starter farm offers a good mix of arable, permanent pasture and rough grazing within its 82 ha, along with a farmhouse and suitable farm buildings.

John Matheson said:

I am absolutely delighted to be given this opportunity, especially as I have missed out on other chances over the past six years since being self-employed. Having everything in one place will make a massive difference in helping to develop my business.”

Our starter farm programme gives new farmers an opportunity to get their first foothold into the farming industry. Successful entrants are given a 10 year lease to enable them to build up a farming business using land and property on the National Forest Estate.