Cuddling a lamb, brushing a big hairy Heilan coo and admiring a pair of goats traversing a see-saw are among the attractions on offer at a new farm tour experience on the outskirts of Aberdeen.
Farm Stop is the brainchild of 22-year-old Christina Polson and her father Andrew, and together the duo have worked to build a hands-on visitor experience on their family farm near Portlethen in Aberdeenshire.
“We have always thought that this part of the world lacks something for all ages to enjoy,” said Andrew, who hails from a croft in Caithness and runs the successful engineering business Enerquip.
He said seeing the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic drove home to him the importance of maintaining good mental health and the role the countryside can have in that.
Christina – a management and psychology graduate from St Andrews University – said being able to visit a farm and interact with animals was an important way for helping people cope with stress and poor mental health.
This drove the idea for the Farm Stop venture and in the past nine months the Polson family – which includes Christina’s twin sister Shannon and their mother Kerry – have diversified their farm with a purpose-built animal interaction and education facility.
Interactive experience at Farm Stop
Most importantly though, Christina has spent countless hours with the animals to get them used to people and ready to offer an interactive hands-on experience for visitors to Farm Stop.
The farm was traditionally home to Andrew’s pedigree Smerlie flock of Park-type North Country Cheviots as well as Christina and Shannon’s Valais Blacknose sheep, however its animal roll-call is now much more extensive and includes a variety of sheep breeds, cattle, goats, pigs, donkeys, ducks, chickens and alpaca.
Initially the Polsons will offer pre-booked interactive farm experiences only, each lasting between an hour and an hour-and-a-half, at a cost of £15 for adults and £10 for children under the age of 16. Children under 2 get in for free.
Tours are available on Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, and once people have completed a farm tour they can purchase coffee, tea and cake from a food truck.
Christina said: “We were fully booked for the first three weekends and we have already got bookings for schools, Rainbows, Brownies, Guides and Scout Groups on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
“In the future we would like to offer self-guided farm walks and we are looking to have a farm shop and a cafe.”
She added: “We have made our paths wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs and we also have an accessible toilet.”
When asked if setting up a business at the age of 22 is hard work, Christina said: “Yes but the smiles and reviews of our first visitors have made all the hard work of setting Farm Stop up worth it.”