An Update from the Scottish Farmer Cluster
As we reach the end of the 2021 monitoring season, the Scottish Farmer Cluster take some time to meet and discuss their plans for 2022.
Have you ever been to a meeting in a room that also houses a tractor collection? I certainly hadn’t until I visited the Scottish Farmer Cluster at their meeting in November and what an interesting meeting it was.
The Scottish cluster is made up of four farms from across the North East of Scotland and the landscape they cover varies from a very sandy, coastal location to the more wooded landscape that you can see in the photo above. Each farm in the cluster has an average size of 360 hectares and the total area the cluster covers is around 1500 hectares. The main crops and livestock on the farms within the cluster are Spring Barley and Cattle.
The Scottish cluster have been unable to meet as an entire group until now so the room was full of chatter as we tucked into a buffet lunch surrounded by some fantastic old tractors. The conversation covered all sorts of topics from potato based milk products to the Highland Cow just outside the meeting room who used to live at the Torridon Hotel in Scotland.
Once we were fed it was time to get down to business and the cluster facilitator Gill Banks, from the James Hutton Institute took to the floor to give the cluster a flavour of the vegetation, birds and pollinators she had found during the baseline monitoring completed over the summer. Aside from these main monitoring methods, the team from Hutton had also conducted some earthworm surveys due to the particular interest of the cluster.
Then it was time to think about what the cluster farmers might want to try next year on their farms and this resulted in some lively discussion around the benefits of carbon auditing and the tools you can use to do that as well as the challenges around mob grazing. There was also talk of zero till and the transition to this farming practise.
In the end the group came to a shared view that they would all be trying some wildflower mixes on the farms but the mix chosen, the size and location of these wildflowers would be different depending on the individual farm. Keep your eyes peeled for some lovely wildflower photos next summer.
Finally, after some tea and cakes we were joined by Andrew Christie, an agronomist and agri-tech specialist from The James Hutton Institute who gave a presentation on cover crops and this stimulated some great conversation amongst the group and gave everyone something to take away and consider.
I certainly left having learnt a lot about the biodiversity currently on the farms within the cluster and with lots of interesting points to think about going forwards. It will be great to see the cluster meeting regularly as we go forward throughout the project and developing their own ideas to increase biodiversity in their own landscape.