Innovative farming projects in the Forfar and Kirriemuir areas were visited by MSPs on the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee last Monday.
The committee members saw how the innovative Agritourism Monitor Farm project, which shares expertise, knowledge and helps to generate new ideas among the agritourism sector across Scotland, works in practice.
The MSPs visited one of the farms taking part in the project, Peel Farm near Kirriemuir, which hosted a meeting of over 40 businesses consisting of current agritourism businesses and farmers considering entering the sector.
The focus of the meeting was to support the owners, the Fleming Family, with advice on how to market and sell their new agritourism accommodation, which officially opened during the visit.
The committee also visited the Hatton of Ogilvy Farm in Forfar where they saw how one tenant farmer is diversifying their business by setting up a small distillery, powered by solar energy, to produce vodka from potatoes grown on the farm.
Convener of the Committee Rob Gibson MSP said: “As the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee of the Scottish Parliament, it is important we get out and about in rural Scotland to see what’s happening on the ground.
“The Agritourism Monitor Farm project really is an innovative way of sharing knowledge and expertise in the farming sector and it also helps to sustain local communities by ensuring we have vibrant local businesses.”
The 18-month Agritourism Monitor Farm initiative is being managed by Scottish Enterprise.
Jacqueline Green, Scottish Enterprise’s Project Manager for the project said: “Monitor farms are a tried and tested method of developing and sharing best practice, inputs and data which provide robust and valuable information to their own and other businesses.
“It is hoped the investment by Scottish Enterprise will bring real benefits to businesses operating or considering agritourism as a way of diversifying their farm business. In the short time this new project has been running, we have been impressed by the way participants are sharing best practice and discussing solutions to issues facing businesses operating in the agritourism sector. I am confident that MSPs will be inspired by what will be discussed at the meeting.”
Prior to the visit Claire Fleming, owner of Peel Farm, said: “We are very much looking forward to welcoming the MSPs to Peel Farm to show them our established agritourism business which has recently been enhanced with a £300,000 investment in luxury holiday accommodation, part funded by a 50 per cent Scottish Rural Development Programme grant.
“We are delighted that our new Agritourism accommodation will be officially launched during the visit. We are committed to the Monitor Farm programme and are confident it will provide valuable feedback and allow us to become more profitable and grow our business further.”