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March 26, 2014

Community farmers

In the last edition we highlighted an idea floated by Pete Ritchie at Nourish Scotland that if the Cooperative Group was so determined to dispose of its farming interests then perhaps they could consider a more imaginative route than just selling to the highest bidder.  Rumour has it that this community owned pipe dream is starting to firm up into a serious proposal.  In the meantime, the idea of community owned farming has suddenly become a reality for one Aberdeenshire community.



Huntly Development Trust

Huntly Development Trust (HDT) has just completed the purchase of a small farm on behalf of the community. Greenmyres Farm, which consists of 63 acres of grazing land, a farmhouse and associated outbuildings is situated just off the A96 some 4 miles south-east of Huntly. Financing for the purchase was provided mostly by a grant from the Scottish Land Fund, a Scottish Government initiative to help communities become more sustainable through the purchase of land and buildings.  

For the time being the farm will continue to be tenanted while the Trust conducts a major consultation exercise to determine exactly how the local community wishes the farm to be used. One partner already signed up is local charity, Networks of Wellbeing (formerly Huntly Mental Health) who already have several community wellbeing operations in Huntly and who are interested in using the farm to develop their activities. 

HDT Chair Richard Hammock said, “The Trust is very pleased to have acquired this substantial asset on behalf of the local community. We believe it offers a tremendous opportunity for local groups to develop interesting and worthwhile uses for the buildings and the site. It also provides the long-term security of asset ownership for our organisation, meaning that we can plan for the future.” 

Ian Cooke, Director of the Development Trust Association Scotland said: “DTAS is delighted to see another of our members acquiring a significant asset on behalf of their community. Huntly Development Trust is following in the footsteps of many like-minded, enterprising organisations across the country in using asset-ownership to strengthen their community in what are both challenging and exciting times. On behalf of all at DTAS I wish HDT well with developing the farm and look forward to visiting in the near future what I am sure will be a successful venture.”  

HDT stressed that it is open to a wide range of ideas from groups and individuals interested in site development. A working group has been formed to plan and deliver the community consultation and a community open day will be held shortly.

The Trust itself is to seek planning permission for a single wind turbine as a visual extension to the adjacent Dummuies windfarm, with a view to providing income and potentially energy for development of the site and to fund other community projects. Other potential uses are workshops and small business units, recreational use – the farm is adjacent to the Gartly Moor forest – small-scale agricultural enterprises, training and skills development, and aquaculture.

 However nothing is ruled out. Richard Hammock said, “Huntly has won awards for being the most creative place in Scotland and over the next few months we will be looking to see that creativity applied to the opportunity that Greenmyres offers to us all.”