The 150 acre farm ‘starter unit’ at Newton, near Loch of Lintrathen, on Scottish Water-owned land was made available via the Farming Opportunities for New Entrants (FONE) scheme designed to increase opportunities for new people to enter the industry.
Kevin Cuthbertson, 30, first became interested in farming through a chance encounter as a teenager and had clocked up years of experience working for other farmers before buying his own flock of 50 sheep. However, his ambition of owning a larger flock and dedicating himself to his own farm on a full-time basis was hampered by a lack of long-term security around land rental.
Kevin said: “I have been wanting to set up on my own since I was 16, but I just haven’t had the security of the land to do it. You need a lot of money to set up on your own and be able to buy a farm – it’s not easy to cover the mortgage just from sheep farming.
“The FONE scheme has given me the security that I need and it allows me to plan ahead and develop the farm, which is really exciting. I now have around 370 sheep including some North Type Black Face sheep which I have wanted to get for a long time as it is a breed I’m very interested in.”
Scottish Water, along with organisations such as Forestry and Land Scotland and some local authorities, work with the Scottish Government to identify and release more public land to encourage a new, younger generation of farmers.
Since 2017, FONE has helped facilitate entry to around 70 new entrants by providing over 100 land opportunities across 7,000 hectares of land.
Mairi Gougeon, Rural Affairs Minister, visited the to see how the scheme has helped Kevin’s farming ambitions.
She said: “It is fantastic to see what Kevin has achieved since he secured this starter unit through the Farming Opportunities for New Entrants Group.
"We recognise there are considerable challenges to entering the sector including access to land. over the last five years we’ve helped around 70 new entrants into farming life.”
Archie Macgregor, Scottish Water’s Land and Property Development Manager, said: “We’re delighted to be able to help Kevin realise his ambitions of developing his flock and to offer him the security he needs on his land tenancy to be able to do that.
“This is the fourth starter farm that we have been involved in leasing and we are proud to help enable more people to make a start in the farming industry as part of the FONE initiative, bringing fresh drive and innovation to the sector.”