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Scotland: Crops, Cattle, Sheep and Whiskey - 09 September 2014

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Tuesday 9th September 2014.
Sarah Mikesell - TheCropSite Senior Editor

Sarah Mikesell
Senior Editor


Global Analytics


Scotland: Crops, Cattle, Sheep and Whiskey 

Greetings! I’m just back from the International Federation of Agricultural Journalist (IFAJ) conference in Aberdeen, Scotland, and it was an amazing experience as our group of 210 journalists from 37 countries had a peek at Scotland’s most innovative farmers.

Thainstone ExchangeWe visited Thainstone Exchange – largest farmer-owned livestock auction company in Europe with annual sales exceeding £90 million and handling more than 100,000 cattle and more than 500,000 sheep.

We spent a YUMMY afternoon at Mackies of Scotland. They are a low-carbon dairy farm, who sells premium ice cream, potato chips (or crisps as they are called in Scotland) and ice.

Mackies also has several wind turbines on site, and we got up close and personal – even going inside the turbine. As you can imagine, it was really awesome. I had always heard that wind turbines were really loud when you were under or nearby, but these were almost soundless. Locals are fighting the addition of more turbines, and they say the turbines create “visual pollution” and ruin the picturesque landscape of Scotland.

The farm tours were great, starting with Gregor Mackintosh’s cold pressed rapeseed oil business. Gregor is a young farmer and in 2009 he started his own Scottish branded Extra Virgin bottled rapeseed oil business - Mackintosh of Glendaven - which competes well with olive oil. He’s now building his export market.

CarrotsNext up, we went to Benzies, owned by Philip Benzie, who raises 1,400 acres of potatoes on an eight year rotation, along with 350 acres of carrots (equals 16,000 tonnes of dirty carrots) and 1,600 acres of spring barley (malting), winter wheat (feed) and oats (milling).

We ended the first day of farm tours at Maxwell Farms, a family owned business specializing in a Scottish favorite Swedes (in the US called turnips), carrots and beetroot. At Maxwell, they produce and package their vegetables for wholesale, retail and further processing. We also heard from Scottish food company Baxters.

On our second day of farm tours, we started with a short visit at Culquoich deer farm. The market for venison is growing about 10% to 20% every year in the UK, while Germany is the biggest market for venison.

Tonley Aberdeen Angus BullWe visited Tonley Aberdeen-Angus Farm. The Tonley herd is an award-winning operation, who sells pedigreed Aberdeen-Angus. Their stock is all in the top third (or higher) in terms of performance.

Lastly, we toured John Gordon’s farm, Wellheads, which rises to 1350 ft and stocks 850 Blackface and Greyface ewes crossed with Suffolk and Texel rams along with 230 suckler cows crossed with Charolais bulls.

I was introduced to haggis, which is a sausage made from sheep innards (heart, liver and lungs) – although I was told it was more like haggis light – as it wasn’t served traditionally. It was matched with potatoes and a cream sauce, so not too bad.

Scottish whiskey

I also had the opportunity to try MANY Scottish whiskies as we were offered a dram of whiskey upon arrival and departure at most farms.

Most of all, I loved the wonderful hospitality that the Scottish people and farm families showed our group. I was truly awed by their great food and whiskey, sharing of information and combined efforts to show the best of all that is Scotland.

Many THANKS to Massey Ferguson, Perkins and Waitrose, who were premiere sponsors of the conference.

Have a great week!


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