Scotland’s close-knit network of agri-tourism farmers aim to banish the Covid blues by hosting a marathon six weeks of live virtual lambing events.
Go Rural Scotland, the organisers of #Lambathon, are hoping to bring a bit of cheer to families still stuck at home on Covid lockdown when the virtual events start on 24 March.
Last year, more than 10,000 families tuned in to the Go Rural Facebook page to gain an insight into Scottish rural life.
The event attracted viewers from the US, Canada and Europe, and generated a reach of almost 2.5m on Facebook.
See also: So you want to… sell food to the public
Go Rural’s Caroline Millar, who with the support of Visit Scotland helped to set up the daily tours, told Farmers Weekly that the event is returning for the second time – bigger and better.
Twenty-eight farmers from all over Scotland will be hosting a different live tour every day, with some taking part more than once.
“We never expected to still be in a lockdown, or partial lockdown, this time around.
Case study: Alison and Fergus Younger, Old Leckie Farm, Gargunnock, Stirling
Lambathon is a great way for farmers to showcase the importance of locally produced food along with the very best of Scotland’s agri-tourism industry, says farmer Alison Younger.
“For me, Lambathon is two-fold: the opportunity to transport people to our farm at a time when they cannot necessarily visit us and to create a dialogue with our customers, whether that’s through agri-tourism or the food we are producing.”
Old Leckie Farm is home to 450 breeding Texel/ Lleyn sheep, a herd of 60 Limousin cattle, 1,100 free-range hens and some Tamworth-cross pigs.
A number of different diversification projects have also been developed, including direct and box sales of meat and home deliveries of mixed salad leaf and potatoes
The Younger family also offers self-catering accommodation and on-farm experience tours to guests and members of the public.
“Lambing is the time when you are really in the mix of things. It’s a brilliant time to be doing live tours,” said Mrs Younger.
“As many families tune in to Lambathon, we will be getting our three children involved. It’s great for them to tell it from their perspective.”
“People are not going to be able to go and visit live lambing events on farm at Easter, so we hope that Lambathon will be something families can enjoy from their own homes,” said Mrs Millar, who farms a 263ha mixed family farm, near Dundee, with her husband, Ross.
“Farmers will be explaining what they do and will be keen to get some key messages out about Scotch Lamb PGI [protected geographical indication] sourced from farms that must meet high-quality production and high animal welfare standards.”
The live events will also be an opportunity for farmers to promote responsible behaviour in the countryside, including the need for owners to pick up dog waste and keep their pets on a lead at all times near livestock, especially during this lambing season.
Case study: Duncan Family Farms, Lands of Drumhead & Blairfad near Drymen and also at Inveruglas on Loch Lomondside
Helping to educate the public, especially children, about where their food comes from is the aim of the Duncan family at this year’s Lambathon virtual event.
“It’s great for folk to see what happens and what’s involved in producing food,” said Shona Duncan.
Together with her husband Bruce, and their three daughters, Jan, Rebecca and Sally, from 20 March they will be lambing 2,000 sheep in two separate flocks of Blackies, mules and Texel crosses.
“We’re probably going to be very busy. Let’s hope we have a birth live on camera,” said Mrs Duncan.
She plans to explain the high welfare standards involved in sheep farming and help the public understand the hard work that goes into producing Scotch Lamb, hogget and mutton.
Taking part in Lambathon last year helped increase their followers on social media and spread the word about their business.
The family has started selling their home-produced meat direct to the consumer and online.
They are also diversifying into glamping pods and self-catering accommodation.