Charles Bruce farms near Banff, Aberdeenshire, and has 98 hectares (242 acres) of owned land, 76ha (188 acres) of malting barley which is contract farmed, and rented seasonal grazings extending to 40ha (99 acres). Running an 80-cow fold of pedigree Highland cattle, these are used to supply an on-farm butchery business and his Bogside Farm Shop. There is a commercial ewe flock of about 230-head and a trout fishery is also run as part of the business.
Forty years after leaving agricultural college at Aberdeenshire’s Craibstone campus, a reunion was held last weekend. To celebrate, a trip to Norvites feed mill was organised for Saturday morning followed by a visit with farm walk and lunch here at Bogside.
After so many nice days these last few weeks, we got the misfortune of a day’s persistent heavy rain. The farm walk turned into a discussion about our diversification into the butchery and farm shop. It was very interesting hearing how people were either still involved in agriculture or had moved into other areas, roughly 75 per cent of the former students were still farming or were involved in agri-associated business.
The huge changes in the last 40 years were highlighted to me when speaking to a friend from a 243-hectare (600-acre) dairy unit in Perthshire. When he left college the farm had 12 employees as well as his father, grandfather and himself. The cows are now gone and the farm now has only one employee who is shared with a neighbour.
It is very sad to have witnessed the demise of the dairy industry in the north east of Scotland, with hardly any dairy herds left within our area. Next weekend sees our busiest day of the year with the butchery side of the business when we have a stall at the Taste of Grampian food festival.
This is a food and drinks festival held at Thainstone Mart when the car park is covered with marquees which hold various stalls offering all types of locally-produced food and drink. Celebrity chefs are on-hand to carry out cookery demonstrations in the main sale ring which are usually sold out.
This year’s top attraction is James Martin who should prove very popular with the 15,000 or so foodies usually in attendance. We have found that we have to keep and eye on TV chefs and cookery programmes as it is not uncommon for customers to arrive looking for particular cuts to try to replicate the meals they have seen prepared. Like the Scouts, our motto is, ‘be prepared’.