Rhynie Farm in Easter Ross, run by Donald Ross, was today (21 November) named AgriScot Scottish Arable Farm of the Year.
The competition, supported by AHDB and sponsored by SoilEssentials, aims to highlight best practice, and demonstrate the benefits of adopting new tools and techniques to drive the industry forward.
Fifth generation farmer Donald Ross was commended for his detailed understanding of his costs, his passion for collaboration and his zeal for soil health, as well as his constant drive to improve his business.
Donald runs a mixed arable, beef and sheep unit. He grows approximately 50 ha winter wheat for animal/fish feed and distilling, another 50 ha is devoted spring barley for malting, with 22 ha for oilseed rape and 17ha given over to spring oats for feed and milling.
There were two other very strong finalists in the Arable category: Learielaw Farm in West Lothian, owned and managed by Walter Dandie & Sons and Sweethope Farm near Kelso, family owned and managed by David Fuller-Shapcott.
Peter Chapman, whose Aberdeenshire farm was awarded theScottish Arable Farm of the Year accolade last year, assessed the competition, alongside fellow farmer, and past AgriScot Chair, Andrew Moir.
Peter said: “We had three fantastic finalists who all would have been worthy recipients so deciding who would receive the award was no easy task.
“We were incredibly impressed with Donald; not only is he a very capable farmer, he’s also very much a cooperative, working closely with Scottish Agronomy and Highland Grain.
“He pushes himself to improve, has a good handle on his costs through benchmarking which helps him to keep his costs down without any detrimental impact on his yield or business. He’s also a tremendous ambassador for the industry, both locally and nationally.
For co-judge Andrew, Donald’s commitment to soil health stood out.
He said: “Donald clearly has a passion for soil and regards this as his greatest asset. One of his aims is to leave the soil in a better condition than when he took the farm on.
“He has also focused on integrating the arable with the livestock to create a sustainable rotation allied to a sensitivity for the environment and biodiversity.”
Donald himself was delighted to receive the Award, although somewhat surprised.
He said: “I’m absolutely delighted to win this award, especially amongst such stiff competition. My father has always been a strong influence on me, so I’d like to thank him, and all my family for their support, I could never have won this Award on my own.”
SoilEssentials congratulated all three finalists for giving the judges such a difficult decision to make and for being fantastic advocates for the arable industry. They are very much looking forward to working with Donald over the coming year. After an initial visit and discussion with the winning farm, SoilEssentials will provide a tailored precision package suited to their business to help improve and enhance its operations moving forward.