Volunteer Farmers Wanted for Next Farming for a Better Climate Programme

Published Wednesday, 28th August 2013 in Staff news

Stewart Stevenson, Ross Paton, Bob Rees at Torr farm

The search is on for three volunteer farmers interested in saving energy and reducing costs.

After three years of the Farming for a Better Climate initiative, funded by Scottish Government, the first climate change focus farmers’ time with the project is coming to an end. Plans are now underway to identify the next group of host farmers who, with the help of their neighbours, can identify practical ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from Scottish agriculture.

“Our first volunteers didn’t quite know what to expect three years ago”, says Rebecca Audsley, Climate Change Manager for Scotland’s Rural College. “But they took the plunge and all of them say they enjoyed it, have learned a lot and reduced their business costs, as well as the farm’s carbon footprint.”

The original farmers, from Torr Farm, Castle Douglas; Glenkilrie at Blairgowrie and Stewart Tower near Stanley hosted a series of open meetings each year. Attending these were groups of local farmers, SRUC researchers, consultants and other guest speakers to discuss the pros and cons of ideas and changes tried out on their farms. These ranged from straightforward measures to reduce fuel bills through better energy use in the dairy, to increasing livestock profitability on the farm, for example by looking at housing and age of calving.

Ross Paton, who manages Torr Farm, Auchencairn with his sister Lee, says he has learned a lot:

“I found it gratifying to host farm visits and events. It was very interesting and stimulating, although quite a lot of work! I learned the importance of greater attention to detail regarding soil management and general efficiency and realised getting into renewables is really the icing on the cake rather than first port of call.

Comments Rebecca Audsley:

“We don’t expect host farmers to do anything that would put them out of pocket, so the Farming for a Better Climate initiative funds the analyses on farm, the cost of meetings and demonstrations.  Local SRUC specialists or our SAC Consulting Colleagues help them put identified measures in place.”

The new scheme requires three new farms to work alongside the fourth original Climate Change Focus Farmer, at Upper Nisbet in the Borders. They started a year later than the other pioneers. Having worked with two dairy farms and a beef unit the organisers are now looking for a cereals and beef unit in the NE and a hill farm in the north, as well as another SW dairy farm.  

As before Scotland’s Rural College staff will work with the host farmer to prepare baseline data to start from, as well as identifying key areas where there is scope for savings in both finances and carbon.   Depending on the farm type, this could be energy audits, renewables, soil testing, nutrient budgeting or livestock management.

“We want to look at a range of options we can work towards together over the three years and identify practical measures the farmer feels could be easily implemented on the farm”, says Rebecca. “Host farmers should be comfortable about sharing what they are doing with others, although we don’t ask farmers to reveal financial information in the same detail as those involved in the different Monitor Farm programme.”

Once the three new farmers are identified the project will begin before Christmas with the collection of baseline data and a first on farm meeting. There may be some flexibility in timing depending on activities on the host farm.

For more information or an informal discussion contact Rebecca Audsley on 01292 525089 or email Rebecca.audsley@sac.co.uk. You can also have a look at to see what previous farmers have done by visiting the Farming For a Better Climate web page

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