31st July 2014

Review Highlights Valuable Role of Monitor Farms Programme in Scotland

An independent review of Scotland’s Monitor Farms Programme has confirmed the farms have been successful in practical and effective knowledge exchange and delivered a positive impact on farm practices and performance.

To date a total of 40 monitor farms have been initiated in Scotland, funded mainly through the Scottish Government’s rural development programme Skills Development Scheme, and supported by QMS, DairyCo, HGCA and SOPA. The farms selected to be part of the programme have an average project duration of three years with around 18 meetings held during this period.

The interim evaluation assessed the success of the programme in achieving its core objective of improving the profitability of Scottish farmers and also identified learning and good practice in knowledge exchange.

The conclusions of the evaluation have been welcomed by Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead and Quality Meat Scotland chairman Jim McLaren.

Speaking at an open evening at the Cairngorms Monitor Farm this week, Mr Lochhead said:

“Monitor farms are undoubtedly a great way of trying out new farming technologies and techniques, and promoting best practice across rural Scotland – and this report gives welcome confirmation of the value of this model to Scottish farmers. These findings and recommendations will help us to develop the monitor farm programme so that it is even more effective through the next rural development programme period.”

The report found the vast majority of monitor farmers described their involvement in the project to be of significant value to their own businesses, with 93% stating their involvement in the project helped improve productivity.

It also revealed the value to the local farmers who regularly attend monitor farm meetings – known as the “community group”. Ninety-five per cent of community group members  said monitor farms were an effective forum for exchanging knowledge and almost 60% reported that monitor farm projects led to improvements in the financial performance of their own farm businesses.

QMS Chairman, Jim McLaren, also attended this week’s open meeting at Lost Farm, Strathdon run by George and Fiona Gordon and their son Charles. Lost, located in the Cairngorms National Park, is a traditional upland farm which runs around 80 suckler cows and 800 breeding ewes.Mr McLaren also welcomed the outcome of the independent evaluation. “Scotland’s monitor farms programme has been going for more than a decade and this review gives an important measure of the contribution the project has made, and continues to make, to the efficiency and profitability of Scottish livestock farming.

“Key to the success of this programme has been the willingness of the monitor farmers to open their farm gates, their farm accounts and their own hearts to this project. 

“I know that as well as providing fertile ground for the ideas and innovations which are helping to shape the future of our industry, a great many valuable business contacts and friendships have also been kindled by this project.

“The importance of this social aspect of the project should not be underestimated, particularly given the increasingly solitary nature of modern-day farming,” said Mr McLaren.

For further information on monitor farms and detailed reports of meetings visit www.qmscotland.co.uk/monitor-farms.  To view the summary of the “Scottish Monitor Farms Programme Interim Evaluation” document, please click here.

Caption: Cairngorms monitor farmers Charles and George Gordon are joined by Jim McLaren QMS chairman (left) and Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead (right) at the open meeting at Lost farm.

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