A 25-year-old contract sheep shearer and farm labourer from Callander is the latest new entrant to benefit from a government scheme to provide public sector land for aspiring farmers.
Callum Lindsay yesterday took on a five-year tenancy on 100 acres of permanent grassland left over from a forestry planting scheme at West Torrie, near Stirling. He said he has never wanted to do anything but farm, but high land prices and a shortage of farms for rent have made it almost impossible to get established.
“It’s a decent size and I’ll now get the chance to establish livestock of my own. Hopefully I’ll be able to move on somewhere else at the end of the tenancy.”
Callum is one of 24 young entrants to share in a windfall of 6,400 hectares of land released this week by public bodies such as Forestry and Land Scotland, Crown Estate Scotland, Scottish Water, Highland and Islands Enterprise, and East Lothian and Highland Councils.
It is understood the forestry estate has already identified another 2,800 hectares for lease to aspiring farmers and other public organisations are following their lead. However, the original starter farmers who were granted 10-year tenancies need to find other units in three years time, and Henry Graham, who chairs the Farming Opportunities for New Entrants (FONE) scheme, said they were having little success in finding new tenancies.
“ It has become a priority for us to work on the possibility of providing a land-matching service which would put people wishing to retire but hold on to their farms with younger farmers who need land,” he said. “We are still identifying what works best in other countries.”
Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing, who handed over the farm to Mr Lindsay, confirmed it was necessary to develop the FONE initiative. He said: “The frameworks are there and we are working closely with landowners.”