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Vice President's Blog - 14 June 2019

Opening the farm gates to the public – I’ve got the bug writes Vice President Martin Kennedy.

Last Sunday, for the first time, we took part in LEAF's Open Farm Sunday which brought nearly 200 people to Lurgan Farm from the surrounding area.

As it was our first time, we weren't sure how many people would attend so it was great to see so many interested in what happens on a hill farm. The fact our event was so well supported convinced us it is definitely in the diary for next year and hopefully the word will spread, and we will get a few more.

We had quite a variation of things for people to see which included some pens of ewes and lambs, Continental ewes from our lower ground, Cheviots from the middle and Blackies from the hill. It must be said though that the star attraction on the sheep front was the two pet blackie lambs, Billy and Smudge who had an audience all day.

Sandy Thomson from West Park had a soils and science stand with soil analysis results where he explained to visitors why soil health is so important both in terms of its productive capacity and its ability to store carbon. He also had on display several different seeds for people to guess what they were. This then linked to some of the machinery we had on display showing how some operations on farm are carried out.

As we are tenants on a shooting estate, I asked the Scottish Gamekeepers Association if they would come along with a stand to highlight the benefits of the shooting industry, with specific regard to assisting in biodiversity and explaining why predator control is so vital to protect many of our iconic species. They did a great job and along with our keepers here providing a UTV and an ATV, their stand was very popular with the youngsters.

We had feed trailers at the ready for the farm tour which took just under an hour. The tour took people up to 1200ft to the bottom of the hill where it stopped, and Finlay McIntyre did an excellent job of explaining how the farm worked and how important it was for livestock to be grazing our hillsides. Ian Smith, the head keeper on the estate, then also explained what's all involved from a gamekeeping perspective. A big hit for the public was seeing the sheep and cattle on the tour, especially the Highland cows, who were particularly obliging by staying not too far from the trailers.

Once the tour returned, the trailers dropped people off at the sheep shearing demonstration where Stewart Kennedy did an excellent job of not only shearing but explaining what's involved and what the wool is used for.

After that Katrina, our middle daughter, did a sheepdog handling demonstration much to the delight of a very appreciative audience.

LEAF kindly provided many leaflets and posters for people to read and take in whilst enjoying a cup of tea and a sandwich provided by the young farmers.

All in all, it was a brilliant day which ended with a barbecue for everyone who helped during the day. Many thanks to them all and here’s to 2020.

Author: Martin Kennedy

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About The Author

Martin Kennedy

Martin Vice President of NFU Scotland and is a tenant farmer in Highland Perthshire and farms with his wife Jane and three daughters, Jillian, Katrina and Yvonne. They have 600 ewes and 60 cows on the farm rising from 800ft to over 2,500ft. Martin served two years as Highland Perthshire branch chairman, before representing East Central region on the LFA committee in 2009. Martin then went on to be vice chairman then chaired the committee for three years. He has served as Vice President of NFUS for two years and is currently sitting on his third.

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