Scotland’s Farming Conference – A World of Opportunities

The 14th Farming Scotland conference at Carnoustie on Thursday 2nd February was possibly the most uplifting event in the world of Brexit gloom.

Sponsored by land agents Bell Ingram, EQ Chartered Accountants, RBS, and Thorntons Solicitors with additional support from Angus Council, over 160 delegates including a number of pupils from local secondary schools, heard a range of presentations with titles as diverse as ‘Growing Potatoes in an Island Nation’, ‘Farming for Tomorrow’, ‘Current Political Policy’ and the ‘Success Story of Arbikie Vodka and Gin’.

Ian Piggott (twitter Ian_Piggott) farms 2,000 acres in Herts, is the brains behind Open Farm Sunday and has opened a school on the farm to reconnect children with agriculture. Passionate about getting the message across, he laments the lack of education and awareness surrounding farming; highlighting a recent social media post where somebody asked “how do you know what cow produces full fat milk and what cow produces semi-skimmed milk?” A multi award winning farmer, Ian has huge praise for RHET (The Royal Highland Educational Trust) and the work the Trust does in Scotland, but despairs that the negative propaganda on social media from celebrities such as Chris Packham, tabloid newspapers and ill-informed lobby groups is damaging the farming industry.

Rob Clayton, the Strategy Director for Potatoes at AHDB gave a hugely illuminating talk on where we in Scotland are in terms of world production and perception. In summary, the Scottish seed brand is greatly respected as a Unique Selling Point and must be protected while, simultaneously, there are huge opportunities to be taken advantage of in terms of efficiency, cost saving, marketing and expanding into new markets. At the same time, the threats to the market come from imported diseases and other plant pathogens. Whatever happens post Brexit, we must secure the high status of the seed potato industry. China is the growing market for potatoes and already other countries have set up in China to advise on growing the crops there. Scotland has much to do to catch up. We are strongly urged to ditch the pasta and rice and return to potatoes with the readymade meal companies already expanding their product range.

The field to bottle story of Arbikie vodka (@arbikie) gave an insight to one family’s desire to diversify using home grown potatoes and other local produce. Iain Stirling, who co-own the enterprise with his brothers, summarised the decision-making and marketing that has made this young company a prize-winner worldwide. Having created a brand of vodka which is improving with each distillation, the company’s gin using botanicals sourced locally from Lunan Bay has followed suite in winning awards. Along with Arbikie’s growing number of products, a visitor centre is planned once the brand is fully established. Based on simplicity, quality staff and ingredients, dedication, and a bespoke marketing drive, this is a real success story for Angus and farming in general.

 

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Published on 6th February 2017