A Highland estate owner has formed a special tenancy partnership with his estate manager to enable him to start his own farming enterprise.
Jim Gray, who owns the Altnaharra Estate, set up a long-term letting arrangement with his estate manager Pieter Bakker.
Mr Bakker, who has worked at the 36,600-acre estate for the past 15 years, will lease 1,500 acres of the estate to build up his herd of pedigree Luing cattle.
The tenancy agreement will run for 12 years and comes with the option to use some of the land to build a cattle court and farm buildings.
Mr Bakker said: “I see it as an opportunity to get a business going apart from the estates business and in the long term to sustain employment in the area.”
He said the tenanted area covers some of the lower ground on the estate, which is currently not utilised by the estate’s deer farming enterprise.
At present Mr Bakker, along with wife Antonette and their children Scott(11) and Christina(13), has ten bulling heifers and four yearling heifers.
All stock was bought in Dingwall in March and Mr Bakker hopes to eventually build the herd up to 25 breeding cows.
He said the enterprise had been entirely self-funded by him and his wife, but he now planned to apply for the Scottish Government’s young farmer support scheme and new entrants scheme as a result of taking on the tenancy and having his own stand-alone enterprise.
Mr Gray said: “The estate was delighted to make land available to support the establishment of a new farming enterprise on some of its better quality rough grazing land, and considered that there was enough suitable grazing to run an additional hill farming enterprise beside its own farming operations.
“A new business in a rural area is always positive and this venture will provide much needed additional employment. I can’t see why other estates can’t do likewise for Sutherland and Caithness.”
Agricultural consultant Gerald Banks, who helped set up the tenancy arrangement, said: “With the opportunities Scottish Government is offering new entrants with the new EU regulations and its concerns for the future of Scottish agriculture and real opportunities for new young farmers, it provides an example of how it can happen, with trust from the land owner for a hard working, innovative and determined younger generation, who wish to ensure they can bring their family up in a remote rural location, maintain the local infrastructure and economy.”