A married couple from Fife has been chosen to run the first Scottish government starter farm in the Highlands.

Douglas and Grace-Ann Bennie will be the first tenants of the 120ha starter unit at Balrobert Farm, which is part of the Scottish government bull stud at Knocknagael, near Inverness.

The couple, both in their early 30s and have three young children, were selected for the 10-year limited duration tenancy following an application and interview process aimed at attracting new farmers to the industry.

Mr and Mrs Bennie started their own small livestock enterprise rearing store cattle four years ago, alongside their full-time jobs.

See also: Scottish farm tenancies: The fight for a foothold

To date this has been done on seasonal land and they plan to use the opportunity of the Balrobert unit as an opportunity to consolidate and build their business.

“For the past four years Grace-Ann and I have been rearing store cattle while juggling full-time jobs and the demands of our young children – so this is a hugely exciting and potentially life-changing opportunity for our whole family,” said Mr Bennie.

“As new entrants to farming we’re keen to make a real go of our business and the Balrobert tenancy will enable us to do just that.”

“These starter farms are a great way for new entrants to get a foot on the farming ladder. I am delighted that the Bennies have been awarded this opportunity and I wish them every success.”
Richard Lochhead, Scottish rural affairs secretary

The Bennies have both been heavily involved in farming throughout their lives.

Mr Bennie was raised on a beef and sheep enterprise where he gained his love of livestock, and also gained experience at his granddad’s dairy unit and other local farms.

Mrs Bennie was raised on a stock and arable farm until she was 11, and although not living on a farm she remained heavily involved with farming and agriculture through her extensive work with young farmers.

Earlier this year, Scottish rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead invited applicants to take on the tenancy at Balrobert .

Mr Lochhead said: “The Bennies are a great example of the fresh farming talent we need in an industry which is vital to Scotland’s economy.

“These starter farms are a great way for new entrants to get a foot on the farming ladder. I am delighted that the Bennies have been awarded this opportunity and I wish them every success.”

While this is the Scottish government’s first starter farm, it is the tenth in Scotland. There are seven Forestry Commission Scotland starter farms in operation with a further two units planned.

The unit at Balrobert was created from land deemed surplus to requirements following the construction of the Scottish government’s bull stud. The site includes grazing and cropping land with various steading buildings.