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Jo Mackenzie: Grazing success and new challenges

Jo with some of the cattle at Rootfield.
Jo with some of the cattle at Rootfield.

A combination of glorious sunshine, rain and the recent blustery winds has meant a bountiful and highly nutritious silage crop for Nick, all packed and covered by last weekend.

After a few teething problems, the Rootfield herd have more or less got the hang of the new grazing platform, now voluntarily leaving their designated paddocks to be milked by the robots before meandering back out to the lush grass.

This week also saw us welcome our first work experience student for some time from Millburn Academy in Inverness. The conscientious vet school hopeful joined Nick for hands-on experience on the farm, which we hope she’ll find helpful.

I admit that the end of the academic year always makes me sad with the stark realisation that my babies are getting bigger. After summer, Mollie starts primary school while Daisy goes into her final year.

The fantastic staff will no doubt be relieved that Covid restrictions mean they won’t have to endure my usual blubbing at the annual Nursery Graduation and Leavers’ Assembly.

Mollie is moving from nursery to primary school.

Being a small rural school, it’s hard not to get attached to the girls’ classmates and empathise with the parents watching their kids make the leap from primary to secondary school or nursery to primary.

Like a lot of parents though, I know both my girls are ready for the next stage. The big question is… am I?

Ever since I was young, maybe a little older than Daisy is now, I always knew what I wanted to be. I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to be a mum.

Writing was all I ever wanted to do and as I grew up, I knew that freelance writing would allow me the flexibility to stay at home with my children, when and if I was lucky enough to have any. (I also wanted to live by the sea – a coastal bolthole is still top of my bucket list – but two out of three isn’t bad.)

For me, writing offered so many options.

Before children and farming, I interviewed Michelin starred chefs, had a food column in a national broadsheet, wrote interiors features on beautiful homes before switching to running my own restaurant PR business, working with some amazing restaurateurs and chefs across Scotland.

Since meeting my hard-working dairy farmer husband, I’ve been able to use writing to help my parents-in-law design, brand and launch their luxury self-catering and events venue at Daviot and then later, when helping Nick diversify into ice cream and milk processing.

I will always be especially grateful to my editor, Gemma Mackenzie, for taking a chance on me to kick start my newspaper writing again after having my babies with this column.

Jo’s husband Nick.

Being married to a dairy farmer and living on the farm with two young daughters is wonderful but all-consuming. Writing has given me a creative outlet as well as a nominal income but has taken something of a back seat over the past several years.

So when the girls embark on the next chapter in their lives after the summer, I will too. Writing will play a part because for the first time in 20-plus years, I am going back to school!

I am excited to have been awarded a training grant from LANTRA’s Women in Agriculture Practical Training Fund in order to study for a Diploma in Organic Skincare Formulation. The idea is to build on my fledgling cold process soap and shea butter ‘Super Balm’ products to create a botanical skincare range inspired by the land and nature.

Happy Father’s Day to my doting Dad, considerate father-in-law and most of all, my compassionate husband.

  • Jo lives at Rootfield Farm in the Black Isle with Nick, daughters Daisy and Mollie, and 120 dairy cows. They run the Black Isle Dairy.

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