22nd November 2017

Fergus Ewing Visit Marks Monitor Farm First Anniversary

A year after the launch of the new monitor farm programme for Scotland, Fergus Ewing, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity, today (Wednesday 20th Nov) visited the Borders Monitor Farm.

The aim of the programme, run jointly by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) and AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds, is to help improve the productivity, profitability and sustainability of producers through practical demonstrations, the sharing of best practice and the discussion of up-to-date issues.

During a tour of Whitriggs farm near Denholm, the Cabinet Secretary heard about the benefits the Borders Monitor Farm, run by Robert and Lesley Mitchell with their son Stuart, is delivering to farm businesses in the borders and much further afield.

Whitriggs is one of nine monitor farms established in Scotland funded by £1.25 million secured from the Scottish Government and European Union’s Knowledge Transfer and Innovation Fund.   

The other areas include Nithsdale, North Ayrshire, Lothians,Angus, Lochaber, Morayshire, Sutherland and Shetland. There is also a pig monitor farm in Aberdeenshire, which is funded separately, with support from Opportunity North East (ONE).

During his visit to Whitriggs the Cabinet Secretary also heard from farmer community group members who were attending a monitor farm meeting with the theme of “Assessing Opportunities”, to encourage farmers attending to consider different options which could potentially improve their margins.

“A year into the monitor farm programme we now have an excellent network of monitor farms very successfully established around Scotland,” said Douglas Bell, Head of Industry Development with QMS.

“The initiative is very much ‘farmer-led, farmer driven’ and the meetings during the first 12 months have been well supported with very encouraging feedback from the host farmers and the members of their community groups.

“Something which has been particularly clear during the past year is the genuine hunger for innovative ideas from farmers getting involved in the project, a significant number of whom have not taken part in this sort of activity before.

“We are now looking forward to moving into the crucial second year of the initiative when many of the improvements identified and initiated in the first year will start to deliver results.

Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy Fergus Ewing said: “I was delighted to be able to spend an insightful morning meeting the Mitchell family and touring the Borders Monitor Farm - a year after the launch of the monitor programme here in Scotland.

“Monitor farms are key to promoting knowledge exchange and empowering farmers to overcome local challenges and I would encourage farmers to engage with their local monitor farm and consider how their learnings could apply to their own business.”

Host farmer Stuart Mitchell said the visit had been a valuable opportunity to give the Cabinet Secretary a practical insight into how the monitor farm project works.

“The fact he has taken time out of his schedule to come down to the borders and visit the farm is greatly appreciated.

“It has given us an opportunity to highlight the importance of the project and what it is delivering for us.

“As well as the practical improvements we are acting on, being a monitor farm has also given us a real opportunity to step back from the day-to-day workload of farming and take a ‘big picture’ look at our business.

“A vital part of this has been benchmarking what we are doing against others in the industry to accurately identify areas we can be focusing on to drive improvements in our business performance. We are looking forward to year two!”

For more information about the monitor farm programme visit www.monitorfarms.co.uk

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