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14/08/14 13:54

Starter farm tenants selected

Successful applicants for tenancy of first Scottish Government starter farm.

The tenants to run the first Scottish Government starter farm have been selected.

Douglas and Grace-Ann Bennie of Fife will be the first tenants of the 120 hectare starter unit at Balrobert Farm, which is currently part of the Scottish Government Bull Stud at Knocknagael near Inverness.

The Bennies, who have three young children, were selected for the ten year limited duration tenancy following an application and interview process aimed at attracting new farmers to the industry.

Alongside their full time jobs, Mr and Mrs Bennie made the decision four years ago to start their own small livestock enterprise rearing store cattle. To date this has been done on seasonal land and they plan to use the opportunity of the Balrobert unit as an opportunity to consolidate and build their business.

Speaking at the Grantown Show, Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said:

“The Bennies are a great example of the fresh farming talent we need in an industry which is vital to Scotland’s economy. These starter farms are a great way for new entrants to get a foot on the farming ladder. I am delighted that the Bennies have been awarded this opportunity and I wish them every success.”

Douglas Bennie said:

“For the past four years Grace-Ann and I have been rearing store cattle while juggling full time jobs and the demands of our young children - so this is a hugely exciting and potentially life-changing opportunity for our whole family. As new entrants to farming we’re keen to make a real go of our business and the Balrobert tenancy will enable us to do just that.”

Notes to editors

Whilst this is the Scottish Government’s first starter farm, it is the tenth in Scotland.

There are currently seven Forestry Commission Scotland starter farms in operation with a further two units planned.

The unit at Balrobert was created from land deemed surplus to requirements following the construction of the Scottish Government’s Bull Stud. The site includes grazing and cropping land with various steading buildings.

The Bennies have both been heavily involved in farming throughout their lives.

Douglas was raised on a beef and sheep enterprise where he gained his love of livestock, and also gained experience at his Granddad’s dairy unit and other local farms. Douglas left school at 16 and attended Elmwood College, Cupar, where he gained a National Certificate in Agriculture. He then progressed onto Auchincruive College in Ayr to specialize in Poultry Management as he felt that there were limited opportunities for a management career in mainstream livestock production at that time. Here, he obtained a Higher National Certificate in Poultry Management.

Grace-Ann was raised on a stock and arable farm until she was 11 years old, and although not living on a farm she remained heavily involved with farming and agriculture through her extensive involvement with young farmers. She went onto University and has a Higher National Diploma in adult nursing and also a Bachelor of Midwifery.

The invitation for applications to take on the tenancy of the starter farm at Balrobert was announced by the Rural Affairs Secretary earlier this year: http://news.scotland.gov.uk/News/Starter-for-ten-d34.aspx

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