One lucky new entrant will be offered the chance to get a foot on the farming ladder with the launch of a new starter unit in Caithness.
Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS) has purchased land at Achnamoine, near Halkirk, to create its eighth starter farm unit, and first offering in the Highlands.
This was funded by the body’s repositioning programme, which sets out to sell areas of low potential land to allow investment in land which it believes will deliver greater benefits.
The starter farm scheme, which currently comprises seven units in Fife, Ayrshire, Stirlingshire, Aberdeenshire and Dumfriesshire, was launched to offer new entrants a pathway into the industry.
“For new entrants it can be very difficult to get their feet on the first rung of the farming ladder. Vacant properties are rare and often out of the price range for most,” said FCS district manager for North Highland, Tim Cockerill.
“Achnamoine could be a great opportunity for someone eager to start farming livestock and integrate this with some woodland too.”
FCS plans to create a holding similar in size to previous units – around 160 acres of rotational grazing – offering the property on a 10-year lease. It said a number of shelterbelts will be created to enhance the productive value of the better quality land, with woodland and open habitat creation expected on the poorer quality rough grazing land.
FCS said the farmhouse and steading will be upgraded, and some unplanted land linked to previous purchases at Dale and Sibster may also be offered with the tenancy.
Following improvement works on the unit, the commission plans to launch applications for the tenancy in autumn 2014 for a spring 2015 entry.
Scottish Tenant Farmers Association spokesman Angus McCall said the unit offered an exciting chance for a new entrant to make a start in farming, in a vibrant agricultural community.
“The Forestry Commission starter farm programme is now virtually the only route into a tenanted farm for a new entrant and new units will inevitably be heavily subscribed,” said Mr McCall.
“Aspiring Scottish new entrants will look wistfully over the border where the 2,700 county council farms provide regular opportunities for new entrants.
“Scottish ministers are the largest landowner in Scotland and I am sure that there must be scope for creating more agricultural units, even if they were not to be equipped to the same standard as the Forestry Commission ones.”