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Balbuthie ‘open farm’ project finally comes to fruition

Invited guests were the first to sample Balbuthie tours which are expected to start by the end of the year.
Invited guests were the first to sample Balbuthie tours which are expected to start by the end of the year.

Almost half a century after he led Scotland’s farmers’ union, John Cameron has realised his dream of a creating a free open farm to promote better understanding between livestock producers and the general public.

The former union president, who is 82,  has personally funded the entire £1 million project which includes a brand new reception building that will be the centrepiece of  twice-daily tours for the public on his Balbuthie farm near Kilconquhar in Fife.

“Ever since  my NFU Scotland days I’ve felt guilty that I didn’t do enough then or since to try to foster a relationship between producers and consumers. As an industry we’re very bad at that,” he said at the launch of the building.

John Cameron told guests that farming needs to have a better relationship with the public.

“We’ve got biodiversity and climate change challenges, but to me a better relationship is just as important, and if we can achieve that it will stand us in good stead to help us meet the challenges the industry faces.”

Lecturers and guides will be employed to explain the running of the farm which carries a stock of 150 Simmental-Luing cows and a herd of pedigree Herefords, and a breeding flock will also be established. There will be tours of the livestock and opportunities for discussion.

The building, which is fully equipped with a catering kitchen and toilets, is also being made available free to all farming organisations including young farmers clubs, Scotland’s Rural College,  the Royal Highland Education Trust (RHET) for visits by schoolchildren, and for other educational or industry purposes.

The first farm tour sets off from Balbuthie.

John Cameron’s first love may be farming, but he is also a passionate railway enthusiast who owns his own steam locomotives, the Great Marquis and the Union of South Africa. Until recently they pulled coaches of tourists on special outings, but their mainline certificates have now expired, and his campaign to house them in a farm museum failed to find favour with Fife Council.

However, undeterred, Mr Cameron has built a second shed with underfloor heating which, he hopes, can one day be converted into a permanent home for the engines.

The agricultural shed contains just some bales and a tractor for now, but John Cameron aims to convert it to a free museum for his locomotives.

He has attracted widespread support, including that of local MSP, Willie Rennie  who attended the launch and promised to help argue his case.

“John Cameron has put his money where his mouth is and made an investment which will benefit the rural economy,” he said.

Willie Rennie MSP took part in the stock judging and is supportive of plans for a railway museum at Balbuthie.

“He needs to show how he operates the open farm and that it’s viable and safe to have to have visitors here, and hopefully over time he’ll persuade Fife Council it’s a wise thing to develop the railway museum.”

Some of the pedigree Herefords at Balbuthie.

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