Aberdeenshire dairy farming business and well-known Scottish food brand Mackie’s of Scotland will open its doors this summer to host Royal Northern Countryside Live – A Family Day Out.
The event, which is organised by the Royal Northern Agricultural Society (RNAS), takes place on Sunday, May 31, and Monday, June 1, at the Mackie family’s Westertown unit near Rothienorman.
Proceedings will commence with an open day on the Sunday for the general public from 10am to 4pm, followed by school visits on the Monday organised by rural education charity the Royal Northern Countryside Initiative.
“The society has organised similar events in previous years which have proved highly successful and attracted a large attendance of the non-farming public who are really interested in how their food is produced and the role of farmers, foresters and land managers as custodians of the countryside,” said RNAS president Keith Walker.
“This year’s event is particularly timely at a time when it has never been more important to get the right messages across about farming and food production in the face of uninformed propaganda and mistruths being peddled by a minority of the national media.”
Host farmer and managing director of Mackies, Mac Mackie, is the fourth generation to farm at the 1,000-acre Westertown unit, which is home to Mackie’s iconic ice cream and chocolate brands, as well as a herd of 280 dairy cattle and the extensive arable farming enterprise run by Richard Stephen on a contract farming basis.
This contract farming agreement has allowed the family to further develop the ice cream and chocolate business, as well as the highly successful move into crisps in partnership with the Taylor family of Taypack at Inchture, near Perth.
All milk from the Mackie’s business’s predominantly Jersey and Holstein herd is transferred directly into the ice cream dairy situated near to the byre on the farm, allowing the product to be made within 24 hours.
In 2001, the business was one of the first in the area to invest in a dairy robotic milking system and seven years ago it upgraded to five Leley Astronaut A4 models.
Overall, Mackie’s employs 90 members of staff, with 70 of those based at Westertown.
To help launch this summer’s event, pupils from Cherrytree Pre-school nursery at Blackburn near Aberdeen gathered at Westertown last week to see the cows and taste Mackie’s finest ice cream.
RNAS board member Louise Mutch, who is chairman of the organising committee for the event, is particularly pleased that all sectors of the farming industry in the north-east have pledged support for the society’s initiative which will offer families an enjoyable and informative day out.
She said: “We are very grateful to Mackie’s for kindly agreeing to host this important event.
“Our aim is to attract families from towns throughout the north-east and further afield, as well as the city of Aberdeen and surrounding area.”
Mrs Mutch said the event would promote farming, food production and the countryside, to give the wider public a better understanding of the ways of the countryside and how quality food is produced on Scotland’s farms.
Visitors will have the chance to see first-hand how Mackie’s ice-cream and chocolate is made in the factories through viewing windows, as well as a tractor and trailer guided tour of the farm.
Other features of the event will include the chance to see various breeds of livestock, sheep dressing, sheepdog trials, a machinery display and an arboretum tour of more than 100 types of trees.
There will also be displays with information on renewable energy, wildlife and the equine sector.
A stockjudging contest will also take place, alongside a farmers’ market, butchery/cookery demonstration, competitions and a children’s play area.
A mock auction will also be conducted by stars from the popular BBC television programme The Mart which was filmed at the Thainstone Centre near Inverurie.
Mrs Mutch said organising the event would require considerable funding and the society continued to seek sponsorship from interested organisations and commercial companies to ensure its success, which will ultimately benefit all sectors of the industry.
Three mainline sponsors have already been chosen for the event – Mackie’s, Lely UK and Scottish Natural Heritage.
All proceeds will go to charities Muscular Dystrophy UK, Charlie House and Maggie’s Aberdeen.
The cost of entry to the event on Sunday May 31 is £10 for adults and free for children.