An Aberdeenshire family farm has been appointed by the Scottish Organic Producers Association (SOPA) and Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) as Scotland’s new organic monitor farm.
Mains of Thornton, run by the Cooper family at Bourtie, near Inverurie has been selected from a strong line-up of applicants following the retirement of Balanloan Home Farm in Perthshire with the first farm meeting on 14 January.
Mains of Thornton is a 360ha mixed farm run by Margaret Cooper, her sons Kenneth and Leslie and their families with two employees. The farm has been fully organic for two years, running 104 suckler cows and 720 breeding ewes as well as crop enterprises. All livestock is home-finished and the Coopers also buy in and finish 1000 organic store lambs and organic store cattle.
“The Coopers’ enthusiasm for being monitor farmers stems from their willingness to try new ideas and improve their farm management,” said Julie Duncan, SOPA Director and one of the farmers on the selection panel.
“With two sons employed on the farm they also see the structure of the monitor farm activity as a great opportunity to involve the next generation in key farm decisions.”
Since converting to organic management the Coopers have seen an improvement in cattle and sheep health and believe “there is more to organic than meets the eye”. They have already tried some different techniques such as the use of clover/chicory swards and seaweed sprays on the stubble turnip/forage rape crops with a variety of outcomes and are keen to investigate some of these ideas further.
A recent addition to the farm steading is a roundhouse building to house livestock, now in use for the first time for finishing cattle and already a local talking point.
The farm has previously hosted meetings for SOPA and the North East Scotland Sheep Group and Lameness in Sheep Campaign so have experience of welcoming visitors onto the farm and hosting lively discussions.
The organic monitor farm will be facilitated by Maggie Magee and Debs Roberts of Scottish Food Quality Certification (SFQC). The three year project will be managed by QMS and SOPA with funding from Scottish Government, QMS, SOPA and sponsorship from Norvite Animal Nutrition.
The project aims to improve farm business profit by close examination and trial of new ideas in key enterprises in the business.
“Peer review and knowledge exchange are hugely important to the process, and ultimately we aim to see smarter farm businesses that have learnt from participating in the project,” said Peter Beattie, Technical Projects Manager, QMS.
The three year project will be launched at the first farm meeting open to farmers and others from the industry on 14 January at Mains of Thornton. The format for the visit will include a farm visit in the morning and after lunch convening in Whiterashes Village Hall for an in-depth look at the farm costings and enterprises. Lunch will be provided by Norvite Animal Nutrition and interested attendees are asked to reply for catering purposes by texting their names to 0773322 8701.
Further information on the monitor farm programme is available by visiting www.monitorfarms.co.uk