Angela Ryan: Scotland 2017

By Angela Ryan, Ferbane/ Banagher Macra

Coming from a small organic farm in the heart of the midlands of Ireland, I was excited to be given the opportunity to represent Macra na Feirme and my club Ferbane Banagher Macra on an exchange to Scotland in association with the Scottish Association of Young Farmer's Clubs (SAYFC).

The exchange offered me the chance to share my experiences and learn from members of the SAYFC, and from Northern Ireland, Wales, England and youth movements from Norway, Finland, Sweden and Switzerland and from further afield such as America, New Zealand and Canada.

On June 13th, I began my travels from Dublin to Edinburgh. On arrival, my bag was delayed and eventually I made it to arrivals where I met Lucy Gibbons, Events Manager of Scottish Young Farmers. She welcomed me to Scotland and provided me with a map and details of how to get to the Budget Backpackers hostel using public transport in Edinburgh. After I dropped my bags to the hostel and already an hour late, I caught up with the other exchangees for an informal meal at a local restaurant, courtesy of the SAYFC.

On the second day, we had a guided tour of the Scottish parliament buildings, famous for its unique architectural features. We were given a tour of the parliament by a member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP), John Scott.

We visited Craigie’s Farm Café and Deli, located 10km from Edinburgh. We were given a guided tour of this family farm by the owner John Sinclair, who explained the farm history. It originated as a dairy farm which evolved and diversified into a fruit farm with its own café and deli. This highlighted for me the significance of adapting and finding a niche market in a difficult agri-food climate so as to remain profitable and sustainable for the future whilst also growing the farm business organically. We had the pleasure of enjoying fresh in-season fruit and vegetables for lunch which has been a huge contributory factor to their growing café and deli enterprise.

Innovative in their thinking, customers have the opportunity to come and spend the day enjoying the panoramic views of Edinburgh whilst picking their fresh in-season fruit for a small fee. This farm visit was a unique example of how a small innovative farm business diversified its enterprise to become profitable in an increasingly competitive environment. Subsequently after our visit, we found out our photo taken at Craigie’s farm was published in the Scottish Farmer, the national farming newspaper!

That evening, we all dressed up and headed to the Overseas Club on Princes Street, where we were wined and dined with the International Trust and Scottish Young Farmers staff and members. As a gift we were presented with a hip flask as a token of reminder of our Scottish exchange on their behalf. Later that evening, we learnt how to ceilidh dance Scottish style which was extremely enjoyable!

On our third day we did a bit of horsing around with the Kelpies (Two Horses), visited the Falkirk Wheel and Transport Museum in Glasgow. That evening, we had dinner and were introduced to our host families. Josefin Blank, the Swedish exchangee and I were hosted together by Avondale Young Farmers in the Lanarkshire region. A young female dairy farmer, Louise Fleming from Glassford, a small village the in the Lanarkshire region hosted me whilst Josefin was closeby staying with another young dairy farmer Andrew Nielson.

The Fleming’s hospitality was exemplary, treating me like one of the family giving me an experience that I will always appreciate. Some of my highlights from the week included milking with Louise and gaining an insight into Scottish agriculture from a female perspective as it was refreshing to share experiences and views with her.

Our next day began with a trip to Chatelherault Country Park. Chatelherault Country Park is a Five Star Visitor Attraction that was once described as a ‘Jewel in the Landscape’. Built in 1732, it was originally used as a Hunting Lodge and summer house for the Dukes of Hamilton. The next few days were packed with activities between shearing Scottish sheep, checking out the local mart, some farm visits, stock judging, tug-of-war, trampolining and a young farmer's dance. We did a day trip to Glasgow, and took an open-top bus tour of the city and explored Tennant’s Brewery and sampled some of Scotland’s finest beer!

We also visited an open coalmine which I found very interesting as I have never seen where coal is extracted from.

In addition, we visited New Lanark, a restored 18th-century cotton mill village on the banks of the River Clyde, close to the Falls of Clyde in southern Scotland. New Lanark was created as a cotton-spinning village in the late 18th to early 19th century.

As part of the trip, we had farm walks over the two weeks to Roadhead Animal Feeds and Dairy farm, a visit to a farm with robotic milkers, a wind-farm and a visit to Overton Farm Shop & Butchery. Similarly to Craigie’s Farm, I was particularly interested by how Overton Farm Shop & Butchery produced and processed all food on site. In Ireland, we don’t have many farms selling produce from the farm gate. This is a particularly niche market in Ireland and has huge potential within the organic sector for further consideration.

The Highland Show was our last stop, but unfortunately I had to return home early for my sister’s graduation. Nonetheless, I hope to return to the Royal Highland Show next year. It was an unforgettable two weeks where I experienced rural Scottish life, culture and hospitality coupled with visiting many famous Scottish landmarks. Highlights for me include trying Scottish cuisine in the form of haggis and tatties (the humble Irish spud), shearing some Scottish sheep, milking some Scottish dairy cows and teaching the other exchangees some old Irish phrases!

I would like to thank Macra na Feirme for this truly unforgettable experience, the SAYFC, and of course especially Louise Fleming and Avondale YFC. I hope that I can use some of the ideas, knowledge and insights that I have learned from this exchange to Ireland within Macra na Feirme and at home.
I always lived by the phrase:
‘Two roads diverged in a wood, and I - I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference.’

So to my fellow Macra members, take the road less travelled by because that truly will be the difference and the best experience you’ll have and this exchange was no exception!

Coming from a small organic farm in the heart of the midlands of Ireland, I was excited to be given the opportunity to represent Macra na Feirme and my club Ferbane Banagher Macra on an exchange to Scotland in association with the Scottish Association of Young Farmer's Clubs (SAYFC).

The exchange offered me the chance to share my experiences and learn from members of the SAYFC, and from Northern Ireland, Wales, England and youth movements from Norway, Finland, Sweden and Switzerland and from further afield such as America, New Zealand and Canada.

On June 13th, I began my travels from Dublin to Edinburgh. On arrival, my bag was delayed and eventually I made it to arrivals where I met Lucy Gibbons, Events Manager of Scottish Young Farmers. She welcomed me to Scotland and provided me with a map and details of how to get to the Budget Backpackers hostel using public transport in Edinburgh. After I dropped my bags to the hostel and already an hour late, I caught up with the other exchangees for an informal meal at a local restaurant, courtesy of the SAYFC.

On the second day, we had a guided tour of the Scottish parliament buildings, famous for its unique architectural features. We were given a tour of the parliament by a member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP), John Scott.

We visited Craigie’s Farm Café and Deli, located 10km from Edinburgh. We were given a guided tour of this family farm by the owner John Sinclair, who explained the farm history. It originated as a dairy farm which evolved and diversified into a fruit farm with its own café and deli. This highlighted for me the significance of adapting and finding a niche market in a difficult agri-food climate so as to remain profitable and sustainable for the future whilst also growing the farm business organically. We had the pleasure of enjoying fresh in-season fruit and vegetables for lunch which has been a huge contributory factor to their growing café and deli enterprise.

Innovative in their thinking, customers have the opportunity to come and spend the day enjoying the panoramic views of Edinburgh whilst picking their fresh in-season fruit for a small fee. This farm visit was a unique example of how a small innovative farm business diversified its enterprise to become profitable in an increasingly competitive environment. Subsequently after our visit, we found out our photo taken at Craigie’s farm was published in the Scottish Farmer, the national farming newspaper!

That evening, we all dressed up and headed to the Overseas Club on Princes Street, where we were wined and dined with the International Trust and Scottish Young Farmers staff and members. As a gift we were presented with a hip flask as a token of reminder of our Scottish exchange on their behalf. Later that evening, we learnt how to ceilidh dance Scottish style which was extremely enjoyable!

On our third day we did a bit of horsing around with the Kelpies (Two Horses), visited the Falkirk Wheel and Transport Museum in Glasgow. That evening, we had dinner and were introduced to our host families. Josefin Blank, the Swedish exchangee and I were hosted together by Avondale Young Farmers in the Lanarkshire region. A young female dairy farmer, Louise Fleming from Glassford, a small village the in the Lanarkshire region hosted me whilst Josefin was closeby staying with another young dairy farmer Andrew Nielson.

The Fleming’s hospitality was exemplary, treating me like one of the family giving me an experience that I will always appreciate. Some of my highlights from the week included milking with Louise and gaining an insight into Scottish agriculture from a female perspective as it was refreshing to share experiences and views with her.

Our next day began with a trip to Chatelherault Country Park. Chatelherault Country Park is a Five Star Visitor Attraction that was once described as a ‘Jewel in the Landscape’. Built in 1732, it was originally used as a Hunting Lodge and summer house for the Dukes of Hamilton. The next few days were packed with activities between shearing Scottish sheep, checking out the local mart, some farm visits, stock judging, tug-of-war, trampolining and a young farmer's dance. We did a day trip to Glasgow, and took an open-top bus tour of the city and explored Tennant’s Brewery and sampled some of Scotland’s finest beer!

We also visited an open coalmine which I found very interesting as I have never seen where coal is extracted from.

In addition, we visited New Lanark, a restored 18th-century cotton mill village on the banks of the River Clyde, close to the Falls of Clyde in southern Scotland. New Lanark was created as a cotton-spinning village in the late 18th to early 19th century.

As part of the trip, we had farm walks over the two weeks to Roadhead Animal Feeds and Dairy farm, a visit to a farm with robotic milkers, a wind-farm and a visit to Overton Farm Shop & Butchery. Similarly to Craigie’s Farm, I was particularly interested by how Overton Farm Shop & Butchery produced and processed all food on site. In Ireland, we don’t have many farms selling produce from the farm gate. This is a particularly niche market in Ireland and has huge potential within the organic sector for further consideration.

The Highland Show was our last stop, but unfortunately I had to return home early for my sister’s graduation. Nonetheless, I hope to return to the Royal Highland Show next year. It was an unforgettable two weeks where I experienced rural Scottish life, culture and hospitality coupled with visiting many famous Scottish landmarks. Highlights for me include trying Scottish cuisine in the form of haggis and tatties (the humble Irish spud), shearing some Scottish sheep, milking some Scottish dairy cows and teaching the other exchangees some old Irish phrases!

I would like to thank Macra na Feirme for this truly unforgettable experience, the SAYFC, and of course especially Louise Fleming and Avondale YFC. I hope that I can use some of the ideas, knowledge and insights that I have learned from this exchange to Ireland within Macra na Feirme and at home.
I always lived by the phrase:
‘Two roads diverged in a wood, and I - I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference.’

So to my fellow Macra members, take the road less travelled by because that truly will be the difference and the best experience you’ll have and this exchange was no exception!