Students studying for a Masters in Organic Farming recently visited Whitmuir Farm in the Borders as part of a three day study tour.
The focus of this year’s trip was Berwick upon Tweed, and six students, as well as their tutors Dr Lou Ralph and Dr Norman Stephen, visited the surrounding region touring several farms to learn more about organic production, marketing and diversification opportunities.
At Whitmuir the students bumped into the Minister for Environment and Climate Change, Paul Wheelhouse, and he joined the group for a tour of the farm, which included livestock, crops and some experimental systems including a biochar trial where they are using charcoal produced from the community’s wood waste to improve their soil quality. And of course, they also visited the well stocked farm shop.
Dr Lou Ralph, Organic Farming Programme Leader, said: “The aim of these annual study tours is to enhance the students’ learning experience in the farm and business setting in a new geographical region, and to improve their understanding through exposure to a range of production and processing enterprises. On this trip there were a wide range of systems in place across the farms visited which the students were able to gain a valuable insight into, and which generated a good level of discussion within the group.”
Whitmuir Farm is a 140 acre organic farm which, as well as keeping livestock such as chicken, pigs and turkeys, grows various vegetables and soft fruit and boasts a shop, butchery and restaurant.
SRUC’s highly successful Organic Farming MSc has now been running for ten years and students can study part time through online distance learning which allows those still in employment or with family commitments to further their education. Students come from a wide range of backgrounds, including farmers, growers, vets and other agricultural and food sector workers who wish to develop their career and businesses in the organic food and farming sector.
Top Right (L-R): Martin Naarendorp. Craig Barnett, Aileen Robertson, Abi Nicol, Paul Wheelhouse, Norman Stephen, Lou Ralph, Caroline Obank, John Twyford, Heather Anderson (host), Pete Ritchie (host).
Below, this year’s graduates and their tutors (L-R): Norman Stephen, Kenny Crawley MSc, Greg Young PGDip, Chris Gospel MSc, Siobhan Ward MSc, Sharon Hall PG Dip, Richard Hunt MSc, Christine Watson, Lou Ralph, Margaret Doherty MSc.