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Award prompts Scottish farming business to review diversification plans

Fearful for their future in farming, Louise Nicoll and her husband, Graeme, looked to diversification projects to help them survive.  Five years later this led to them winning the inaugural AgriScot Scottish Diversified Farm of the Year award, supported by SAC Consulting.

 With an already established bed and breakfast as well as a popular holiday cottage on their 550-acre farm just outside Forfar, they looked at how else they could diversify. 

“We decided to change things even more, we looked at what we already had on the ground.  And we realised that our friendly animals were something that we could use, so we developed farm experiences.” said Louise

When starting out, Louise admits she expected most of the interest to come from tourists, mainly those staying in their bed and breakfast, and holiday cottage.  What she never anticipated was the high level of local interest.

“It was the locals that we found had lost that connection with agriculture. Whilst many of them had fond memories with farming when they were young, they didn’t feel their children had that same connection. And that’s what drove our business.”

Having won two VisitScotland Regional Thistle Awards for the Most Hospitable Bed and Breakfast in 2018/19, and the Best Outdoor Experience, someone suggested they entered the inaugural AgriScot Scottish Diversified Farm of the Year award. 

Louise is honoured to have won the award, but feels it is the process of applying that the business has most benefitted from, challenging them to look more closely at where improvements could be made.   

“It’s such a good way of reflecting on your business. By completing the application, you have to review your journey, whilst also demonstrating the passion we all have for our industry. We’ve gone through quite a strong transition, but without realising it.  Even as a family we have changed.”

The introduction of the award by AgriScot, and subsequently the importance of diversification in agriculture, was significant to Louise and cemented her decision to enter the competition.

“It has taken some time for diversification to be seen as an important part of agricultural businesses. An agricultural event, and one as prominent as AgriScot, was particularly important to me when I decided to apply.”

With rising costs across not only the agricultural industry but the whole country, she feels that diversifying their business has solidified their future in agriculture.

“With all the challenges we are facing now, I don’t think we would be farming today, was it not for our diversification business. I fully understand it is not for all farms, but for us, and the future of small enterprises, I think it will be really important for the future, especially with all the financial challenges to come.”

Louise’s final word on why people should enter awards – “I think you are in a perfect position to shout about something you do.  And why shouldn’t we?”

Commenting on the award, judge and sponsor Sascha Grierson from SAC Consulting said,

“We had an exceptional number of applications in our first year, and it was clear to see how integral diversification was for many farming businesses right across Scotland.

“Louise and her families passion shone through, but it was their focus on engaging their community, and having a strong understanding of the business detail that impressed the judges.

“With agriculture facing considerable challenges, as Louise has highlighted, we need to be shouting about those businesses that are advocating positively for the industry, so we can attract future generations and demonstrate the wide range of careers available.”

Like Louise, Sascha believes entering awards brings long-term benefits.

“Entering awards is more than just about winning. It brings with it widespread recognition and publicity, providing potential for new sales, partnerships and collaboration. It is also a fantastic way to give something back to all those involved, motivating the team and offering a small indication that what you are doing, is working.”

The AgriScot Scottish Diversified Farm of the Year award closes for applications on 26 September 2022.

To find out more and apply, visit www.agriscot.co.uk/scottish-diversified-farm-of-the-year

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