After graduating as an accountant, Claire Pollock returned to the family farm to support her family and future development of their business. The Pollock family always enjoyed farming and plans to keep the business viable led to changes in production methods, aiming to reduce costs whilst also looking for diversified income opportunities by selling the farm’s beef direct to customers. The family also recognised a gap in the public’s knowledge of British food production and felt it was important to tell people about farming.
When their beef demand exceeded expectations, a vision and desire to supply local food to local people was born, and Ardross Farm Shop established in 2005. The plan was to try growing what they could, for sale through the shop. With no retail experience, the family researched everything they planned to do, including starting the farm’s flock of low input, EasyCare sheep, generating grass-fed lamb and mutton. With consumer demand for high health and welfare, grass-fed beef, the Pasture for Life certified Stabilisers slowly replaced their continental cattle.
Winter wheat and barley, oilseed rape, spring barley and beans, are farmed regeneratively on a five-year rotation, with cover crops grazed by livestock in between. A growing number of beehives are nestled between OSR and bean crops, with bees pollinating wildflower meadows and producing honey to sell in the farm shop.
Constantly looking to improve, heritage cereals are being trialled on the farm, where Hebridean bere barley and black oats are grown alongside apple trees in the walled garden, Claire explains, “Heritage grain experts, Wendy Barrie and Bosse Dahlgren, are working with us to try growing grains that will taste good and make delicious bread and oatcakes. We are harvesting them using traditional methods and nutrient testing the grains before deciding our next steps.
“People are learning that food is important to their diet but are very busy,” she continued, “establishing the farm shop not only gave the surrounding community and holiday makers access to locally produced food, but it also generated a direct link between farms and the food we eat. We also enjoy the face-to-face conversations and hearing how much people appreciate our produce, which supports our mental health when farming can sometimes feel a rather lonely occupation.”
The family realises the talent and dedication of staff members employed by Ardross Farm Shop and saw applying for the AgriScot Diversified Farm of the Year Award, as an opportunity to publicly recognise their team, and thank them for their support and hard work over the last 15 years.
On winning the award and their plans for the future, Claire said, “We are thrilled to have won the AgriScot Diversified Farm of the Year Award, learning that we are on the right track and hearing the judge’s feedback was confirmation that we are doing well. Ardross Farm Shop’s operation is a team effort, and the award has given our wonderful staff a real boost. We enjoy what we do, and we plan to do it better by expanding the farm shop and the offerings from our kitchen, growing more of our own vegetables, and trialling new varieties, whilst continuing to work with local businesses and raising the profile of the Scottish local food network.
“We are customer focussed and aim to build on the relationships and trust created between farmers and the public, bringing the story of agriculture to life by welcoming people to see what we do, hosting food fairs to promote wonderful local food producers, offering tours of our farm and using social media to showcase the business internationally.”
Claire concluded, “Meeting other farmers during our journey with the Award has been encouraging and inspiring, giving us ideas on how to improve. We are proud of what we do, and we are constantly learning. I am looking forward to judging the entries for this year’s award and encourage anyone considering entering, to enter.”
Applications for the 2023 AgriScot Diversified Farm of the Year award are now open, to find out more and see a full list of categories, visit www.agriscot.co.uk