During a professional career as the senior land manager for two of the UK’s largest landowners, Michael began part-time farming and realised a lifelong ambition to farm full-time when he and his wife Shirley moved to Williamwood in Dumfriesshire in 2008. They breed beef cattle and sheep and operate a busy holiday cottage business. Shirley breeds and shows Highland ponies. With 4 children between them, only one son remains on the farm and works principally as an agricultural contractor and livestock haulage driver. Past Scotland winners of the RSPB’s Nature of Farming Award, they enjoy community engagement and demonstrating how nature-friendly farming and food production can go hand-in-hand.
Hazel was born and bred in Shetland and along with her husband, Kenneth, runs the croft in Aithsetter, Cunningsburgh. Aithsetter was in an Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA) for 10 years and is now in an Agri Environment Climate Scheme (AECS). Hazel is passionate about making sure that the wildlife, flora & fauna that she grew up enjoying, remains there for future generations. Being a previous President of Shetland's National Farmer Union of Scotland (NFUS) and Chairperson of Shetland Crofting & Farming, Wildlife Advisory Group (SC FWAG) plus working for 8 years as operations coordinator for Shetland Livestock Marketing Group (SLMG) shows how committed she is to agriculture. The couple are also on the committee of the Cunningsburgh & Districts Agricultural Society - which runs the annual show. Part of the holding's heather moorland was a runner up in the 2015 Heather Trust's Golden Plover Award for Moorland Management (Shetland Peatland Restoration Project) - which is an ongoing management The couple diversified in 2012, slightly, by building 2 holiday lodges on their croft and in June 2017 by building Britain's most northerly Farm Shop & Cafe.
In 1991, chartered surveyor Colin Strang Steel and his wife acquired Threepwood, a livestock farm of 423 hectares (1045 acres) situated in the heart of the Scottish Borders near Lauder. The farm lies between 850 and 1020 feet above sea level, and although it is entirely enclosed it is all classified as Less Favoured Area status. Within the farm lies Threepwood Moss, a raised bog of about 100 acres, which is classified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) as well as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC).
Tom manages the conservation and eco-tourism side of his family farm, Argaty in Stirlingshire. He comes from a long line of farmers. Argaty has been in his family since 1916 and his grandmother, Judy Bowser, was a well-known face in Highland Cattle circles. Argaty today is a highly diversified business. In 1996 the RSPB and SNH reintroduced kites into central Scotland and, when these birds began to nest on Argaty, Tom's parents, Lynn and Niall, set up the Argaty Red Kite project. Each day they feed the kites and visitors from around the world come to see them and learn their story. The project aims to increase people's appreciation for these magnificent raptors, and to help tackle ongoing persecution issues. Tom also runs a red squirrel and woodland bird hide, hosts farming and nature walks, and works with the local community on conservation projects.
Phil Knott is a crofter on the Sleat Peninsula on the Isle of Skye. Phil lives with his partner and daughter on a 3ha wooded croft. He has come to crofting from a different angle to most, that of being a wildlife and land management expert but with no direct farming experience. His knowledge in flora, fauna, geology and soil has given him a good grounding and makes him look at the land in different ways to others. Being a wildlife tour leader has taken him all over the world, as well as to every corner of Scotland, especially the Highlands and Islands where he has studied all of the different farming practices. He moved to Scotland in 2004 and has always wanted to manage his own piece of land, it took over 10 years to find the right spot, but it was worth waiting for. Pockets of land are hard to get hold of in the Highlands of Scotland, but crofting does give present an opportunity to get your foot on the ladder.
Denise Walton and her family took over Peelham Farm in 1993. They farm to encourage birds and pollinating insects to live on the land. They converted to organic following the CAP reform of 2002, which facilitated funding. They restored hedges and fence lines, making sure they connected so birds and wildlife can use them as a food source or for protection from predators. Denise says there needs to be a balance between productivity for livelihood and productivity for wildlife, which is why grant aid is important.
Patrick Laurie farms at Culkeist, near Dalbeattie. A small number of pedigree riggit galloway calves were bought in 2015, and this has grown into a suckler herd which grazes at Culkeist and on surrounding moorland in East Galloway. Patrick worked as a project manager at the Heather Trust for eight years, running their communications strategy and delivering advisory support on issues such as peatland restoration, heather beetle, black grouse conservation and marginal grazing for moorland and hill farmers across the UK. In 2018, he moved to Soil Association Scotland to deliver their Farming with Nature program, funded by KTIF, RSPB and Scottish Water, looking at issues which ranged from grassland improvement to bracken control and the conservation of lapwings. Now working freelance, Patrick retains a range of clients across Scotland, providing support and advice for estates, farms and upland businesses. He is currently engaged in setting up The Galloway Hills Network, a farmer-led group designed to explore innovation and best practice in upland farming.