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Steering Group
Scotland

Steering Group - Scotland

Michael Clarke - Scotland Chair

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.

Phil Knott - Scotland Vice Chair

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.

Kirsty Tait - Scotland Sustainable Farming Lead

Kirsty is an experienced urban and rural community practice developer and enjoys supporting action on the ground and shaping policy based on real life experiences. She has had an interest in the connection and relationship between people, land and nature for many years stemming from her upbringing on a tenant farm in Perthshire. She has previously worked for the Scottish Land Commission as their Good Practice Adviser, implementing Scotland’s Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement (LRRS). Carnegie UK Trust, delivering their rural community development programme and community land ownership support and the land-based community charity, the Ecology Centre in Fife.

Colin Strang-Steel - Scotland Steering Group

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).

Denise Walton - Scotland Steering Group

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 - Scotland Steering Group

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.

Becci Barr - Scotland Steering Group

Bio coming soon!

Johnnie Balfour - Scotland Steering Group

Bio coming soon!