Scottish Arable Farm of the Year

For more information about the launch of The Scottish Arable Farm of the Year Award 2022 please click here.

And to download an application form please click here.

Preston Hall Farm – AgriScot Scottish Arable Farm of the Year 2021 

The AgriScot Scottish Arable Farm of the Year Award is kindly sponsored by SoilEssentials and supported by AHDB.

Preston Hall farm in Midlothian, managed by Bill Gray, and owned by the Callander family has been named AgriScot Scottish Arable Farm of the Year.

The award, supported by AHDB and sponsored by SoilEssentials, recognises farms who focus on soil health and make best use of innovation and technology. This year’s shortlist consisted of two farms from Aberdeenshire and one from Midlothian.

Farm Manager Bill Gray has managed the farm at Preston Hall near Pathhead in Midlothian since 1996. He was commended for his attention to detail in his approach to soil management; the successful construction of a new grain store which has improved the farm’s grain marketing business; succession planning, employee communication, and knowledge sharing through the farm’s involvement with the Monitor Farm programme.

Preston Hall is a mixed arable farm of 650 hectares, predominantly oilseed rape, first and second winter wheat, spring barley, winter oats and winter barley, plus some permanent pasture and woodland. The farm successfully balances the competing demands of crop production and financial stability whilst protecting the environment and enhancing wildlife. With a highly capable team, modern machinery and a forward-thinking approach, Preston Hall strives to be at the forefront of modern farming practices.

John Weir from Lacesston farm in Fife, and the 2019 title holder, assessed the competition alongside arable award convenor and former AgriScot Director, John Kinnaird. He commented: “What really stood out for me was the farm’s approach to succession planning. Bill has brought in a trainee manager and is taking the time to put him through the farming equivalent of a management training scheme so that he can take over running the farm business if he chooses to stay at Preston Hall.  I don’t think anyone else in the industry is doing this and I am sure it will really pay off.

“I also admire the collaborative approach Bill took when he partnered with his neighbour Peter Eccles at Saughland in the Monitor farm programme. By applying a holistic approach to agricultural regeneration, they shared their resources to integrate livestock with arable improving soil health and providing support to both farms year-round with the result that both their farming businesses have become more resilient.”

John Kinnaird gives his view: “I was most impressed by Preston Hall’s approach to soil management and soil health, ensuring they get the best performance from the land. Their investment in the new grain store, succession planning, employee communication and knowledge sharing through the farm’s involvement with the Monitor Farm programme are all noteworthy. Each element is impressive in its own right but when you combine them as a whole they make for an extremely impressive, and successful business, and one worthy of receiving the accolade of Arable Farm of the Year.

Bill Gray, Farm and Estate Manager at Preston Hall, said on receiving the award: “We are absolutely delighted to have been recognised for the work we have done over the last few years at Preston Hall. Finding a balance between agricultural excellence and business success is right at the forefront of what we are striving to achieve. Our involvement with the Monitor Farm programme, and the opportunities it offered us with sharing knowledge and working with other farmers has been of real benefit.

“The arable element is only one part of the diversified business we run at Preston Hall and the award is an endorsement of the work that the whole team delivers and the support of the wider farming community.”

SoilEssentials congratulate all three finalists for showing the obvious passion they have for their businesses and the arable industry, as well as making it extremely difficult for the judges to make their final decision. Jim Wilson, Managing Director, explains, “We are delighted to be associated with this award and have been extremely enthused to learn more about each of the three finalists and the farm businesses they manage. We are very much looking forward to engaging with Bill over the coming year and after an initial visit and discussion with Preston Hall, SoilEssentials will provide a tailored precision package suited to their business to help improve and enhance its operations moving forward.”

Sarah Bell, Chair of AHDB’s Cereals & Oilseeds Council met the three finalists at the AgriScot awards presentation on 9 February and said: “I was very impressed with each of the farms shortlisted for this year’s award. They are all great examples of farms that are leading the way in the Scottish farming sector, trying new approaches and demonstrating best practice. They are excellent ambassadors for the agricultural industry.”

There were two other very strong finalists in the Arable Farm of the Year category, Milton of Mathers Farm run by Jim Reid and his family, at St Cyrus and Tulloch Farms near Laurencekirk in Aberdeenshire managed by Iain Wilson.

AgriScot Scottish Arable Farm of the Year 2019 – Lacesston Farm 

The award, supported by AHDB and sponsored by Soil Essentials, recognises farmers who focus on soil health and make best use of innovation and technology.

A firm grip on the farm’s finances and use of energy-saving technology helped John secure the prestigious award.

Accepting his award at AgriScot Fergus Ewing, Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity, John said: “I was surprised and honoured to be nominated and did not expect to win. I know the other two finalists well and we are all part of a benchmarking group. I’m sure the result was very close.”

John grows cereals and potatoes and has a cattle-finishing enterprise on the 300ha farm. The 60 ha of pre-pack potatoes is the main focus of the business. His cereal rotation is fairly traditional, with the main area (120 ha) down to spring barley, with the rest used to grow winter wheat, winter barley, oilseed rape and oats.

Regular soil sampling and chemical, lime and fertiliser applications targeted by GPS technology are the norm at Lacesston but the dung from the cattle enterprise is also key to keep the mainly light soil high in organic matter.
Benchmarking has helped John to control costs. He has also made good use of a wind turbine and solar panels to reduce potato storage costs and the farm’s carbon footprint. He said: “Software is in place to over-cool the potatoes when we are generating as a means of storing renewable energy. In calm or dull weather, the temperatures are allowed to rise until cheaper night electric can be used.”

His use of resources and renewables impressed judges Donald Ross of Rhynie, Tain (the 2018 winner) and AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds Board member Andrew Moir, who farms at Thornton Mains, Laurencekirk.

Andrew said: “Lacesston is a family farm that many arable farmers in Scotland can identify with but, I believe, most could learn from John. He has a good grip on finances and uses technology and renewables to good advantage.”

Donald agreed: “John is a very canny farmer; every decision is analysed and he understands and controls his costs. It is not the easiest farm to manage, at 400 feet with a relatively high rainfall, but the soils were in very good heart, despite the difficult autumn we have just had.”

A member of Scottish Agronomy and director of Tayforth Machinery Ring, John is no stranger to winning awards, having taken the prize for the best soil at the 2018 Royal Highland Show.

The other finalists were also from Fife; Balbirnie Home Farms, Freuchie, managed by David Aglen, and, Cornceres at Anstruther farmed by Craig Peddie.

The AgriScot Scottish Arable Farm of the Year 2018

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.

The AgriScot Scottish Arable Farm of the Year 2017

AGRISCOT unveiled the Chapman family, of South Redbog farm near Strichen, Aberdeenshire, as the winners of the first Scottish Arable Farm of the Year contest.

In this inaugural year of the prize, there were four other finalists who made the final selection, in a competitive category sponsored by precision farming specialist SoilEssentials.

AHDB Cereals and Oilseeds’ Gavin Dick, who convened the award on behalf of the AgriScot directors, stated: “Farms from throughout Scotland were nominated for the award. We then wrote to all of them to invite them to enter and subsequently, we announced our five finalists.

“Our independent assessors were immediately impressed by the entry form submitted by Peter Chapman from South Redbog. Not so much because of what it detailed, but because it was immediately apparent that here was someone who, by his own admission does not have the best, most productive land in the country, but is certainly working to make the most of what he has.

“At the on-farm visit, the assessors were very impressed by the attention to detail shown by Peter in all aspects of the business. He is extremely focussed on improving crop-yields, keeps a very close eye on, and benchmarks costs of production, is passionate about maintaining soil fertility and is an avid adopter of precision techniques,” said Mr Dick.

“I am delighted that South Redbog is the inaugural winner of the AgriScot Scottish Arable Farm of the Year Award. Nevertheless I also commend our four runners-up as excellent examples of best practice and positivity in the sector.”

On receiving his accolade Mr Chapman said: “We try to do as much as we can to support the industry, so I’m delighted to be the winner of the inaugural Scottish Arable Farm of the Year Award; it was totally unexpected!”

Seonaid Ross of award sponsors, SoilEssentials, commented: “Congratulations to Peter and South Redbog for winning today. We’re absolutely thrilled to be a sponsor of the inaugural Arable Farm of the Year Award. It’s a great accolade for arable farming, and it was fantastic to see it presented at a well attended and busy show.”

The four runners up in the category were:

* Delab Farm, Monymusk, Aberdeenshire – a contract farmed unit overseen by Robert Drysdale on behalf of Farmcare Ltd;

* Ploughlands, St Boswells, Roxburghshire – managed by Jack Parsons on behalf of Mertoun Estate Farms Ltd;

* Templehall, Pencaitland, East Lothian – a family farm run by Barclay Hamilton;

* Wheatrig, Longniddry, East Lothian – the base for an arable enterprise farmed by Willie Thomson.

The AgriScot Scottish Arable Farm of the Year Award is kindly sponsored by SoilEssentials and supported by AHDB

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