Christopher’s Scottish Case Study

Chris’ Scottish Odyssey

With hundreds of incredibly talented students here at Bry More, we’re continually surprised by the emerging talent and burgeoning intelligence that they continue to exhibit.

So far this year we’ve had the opportunity to report on Mary’s agricultural successes in the realms of the ‘Pick-Your-Own-Farm’ as well as Joshua’s incredible achievements, against the odds, in the rather peculiar field of airport parking. Here at Bry More we try to encourage our students to make the most of their skills, whether that’s through entrepreneurial enterprises or simply by developing the skills that they’ll need later on in Further and Higher Education.

Christopher is just about to finish up his final year at Bry More and he’s, understandably, been thinking about his future.

Although he’s keen to move on to University, just like his older brother and sister before him, he’s also conscious that he’s got an unprecedented opportunity now to travel the world and enhance the education that he picked up during his time at Bry More. In light of that he’s been trying to spread his wings a little and has been venturing out to far-flung corners of Britain in order to gain an understanding of how agriculture aids our country’s economy.

On his last trip, Christopher headed up North to visit a successful business offering lodges in perthshire with hot tubs. Whilst he was up there living the high life he thought he may as well gain an understanding into how diversification has helped land owners stay relevant and in business. His Scottish road trip took him from the rugged Highlands across to one of the biggest producers of prime Scottish Beef in the country and finally, to Stronchullin Farm; where he had the chance to get to grips with some truly rugged outdoors activities.

Let’s see what he had to say about his experience:

“I’ve only been driving for a few months, but I’m already finding that I’m getting more confident with every passing day on the road. There’s something so exciting about heading out on to the open road and now I can do it by myself, I find that I’m drifting further and further afield. My last adventure took me all the way up to Scotland; quite the trek from Bry More!

Farmers don’t just have to farm these days – we’ve been learning about diversification in our Agriculture classes lately and it got me thinking about all the different things that a simple plot of land can be used for. An EU directive that has, by and large, proved to be a success throughout the UK, Scotland is a country that is almost tailor made for the scheme. The sheer size of the land that Scottish farmers own, when compared to their English counterparts, means that they have far more options for what they can do with the land.

Take Quadmania on Stronchullin Farm, for example. Run by David and Fiona Marshall, the principle business of the farm is to rear sheep, Highland cattle and free-range chickens. With their land being a part of the Loch Lomond National Park, the Marshalls knew that the land that they owned had much more potential beyond the livestock rearing that had been done in the area for decades already. They established their business 15 years ago and since then have won multiple awards for their tourism skills and care for the environment. In addition to this, they also let out four self-catering cottages – an easy way of making money that many other farmers in Scotland have emulated in their own areas.

When I stopped for a night at Highland Heather Lodges, I was expecting some swanky digs, but not to the extent that I received. Tucked away in Crieff, these self-catering lodges (similar to the Marshalls’ cottages minus the quad-biking) were plush and even came complete with their own hot tubs – a perk that I made sure to make use of in my time there. Owners John and Elaine have been prominent business owners in the area for a while now, owning and running their own garden centre as well as owning a popular 10 acre piece of oakland which is perfect for walks. These owners have done something that Scottish people excel at: adapt the purpose of a land, whilst retaining it’s essential ‘Scottishness’.

When we think about ‘Scottishness’, we instantly think of tartan, kilts and, of course, beef. Millers of Speyside have been operating from the Northern part of the Cairngorms National Park for over 20 years, they have carved out a business processing and distributing beef that is absolutely, undeniably Scottish. With accreditation from the Protected Geographical Indication EU Scheme, they are officially licensed to sell beef labelled as ‘Direct from the Highlands’, ‘Millers Aberdeen Angus’ and ‘Cairngorm Beef from the Highlands.’ Through touting home grown, home processed meat, Millers of Speyside have expanded their business to become one of the biggest sellers of Scotch Beef in the country.

There are clearly so many avenues for expansion if you’re a Scottish land owner, I’m almost a little jealous! Still, it’ll be interesting to see how this pans out after what could be a tumultuous year for Scotland and Great Britain as a whole.”

Christopher has spent the last seven years here at Brymore, he’s made a wonderful addition to each class room that he’s been in and we’ll all be very sorry to see him go. We all know, however, that he’ll do us all proud and we can’t wait to see what the gets up to in the future!

Agricultural Futures: Science Fiction Farmers

Science Fiction movies are better known for space ships and laser pistols…

But they’ve also made some astute observations about the future of agriculture.

It might be a while until we have to worry about the events depicted in dystopian classics like Soylent Green, but with the constant exponential development of technology, more wild concepts from Sci-Fi movies are worming their way into our reality, suggesting that these distant futures might not be as remote as we think they are.

From George Lucas’ 1977 seminal picture to more recent super-hero releases, the notion of how we grow our products is constantly being challenged both on and off-screen.

Star Wars|1977

Luke Skywalker lives a peaceful, if somewhat dull, existence on his home planet of Tatooine in the opening scenes of Lucas’ Star Wars. He’s a small-town farm boy, whose adoptive parents own a ‘moisture farm’, a business that uses advanced machinery to extract water from the arid desert environment. Using second-hand droids (some of which don’t quite cut the mustard) and odd looking installations, the Lars’ existence felt like a remote one, reliant on technology.

Is It Happening Now? In Ethiopia, moisture farms are no longer a thing of science-fiction. Costing as little as £500, these towers, made of a polypropylene mesh and natural materials, gather condensation which then drips down into a collector. Hardly high tech, but still a clean source of water that wouldn’t have been possible a few decades ago.


A Scanner, Darkly|2006

Philip K. Dick’s seedy 1977 novel of rehabilitation gone wrong and an endless war on drugs was adapted by Richard Linklater, who used rotoscope animation to depict the mind-bending reality that protagonist Bob Arctor/Agent Fred lives in. By the time Linklater released the film in 2006, the story made for a timely statement on the War On Drugs, that the USA had been engrossed in for nearly a century. By the end of the movie, Keanau Reeves’ typically spaced out agent is mindlessly spraying fields of crops, after being enlisted into the ‘New-Path’ rehabilitation scheme – an organisation that is paradoxically producing the drugs its clients have got hooked to.

Is It Happening Now? Although there might not be any large scale production of a ‘Sudden D’ equivalent by a Rehab Company, the world of drug rehabilitation can often be a shady one. As recently as 2015, numerous allegations have been made against Community Recovery whose owner has been accused of supplying vulnerable clients with drugs in exchange for sex, money and alcohol.


Interstellar|2014

For the first 20 minutes or so you could be forgiven for thinking that Christopher Nolan’s black hole-jumping hit was set in the 20th century. Corn-fields, pickup trucks and dust storms plague protagonist Cooper’s home ranch. Although the fields look verdant enough, Earth is struggling to feed itself in this not-so-distant-future and even the aid of automated farm machinery isn’t bridging the gap. What’s more, they live in a post-truth society (the Moon landings are bluntly denied by a Science teacher) where children are being pushed to become farmers over getting a ‘proper’ education.

Is It Happening Now? Whilst moon landings conspiracy theories will always be questionable, automated farmyard technology is already in effect in the States. Self-driving tractors, made by industry giants CNH Industrial, were shown off last year – it won’t be long before they hit our own shores.


Logan|2017

Besides wholeheartedly embracing a future of drone technology (the bad guys use a fleet of them to hunt down runaway mutants), James Mangold’s second stab at the Wolverine legend also contained a worrying portent of a farming future yet to come. Logan contains a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it subplot pertaining to genetically modified foods and worryingly sentient container transports. Mangold subtly suggests a world where the will of sugar-pushing corporations is exacted by unthinking machines, a future that perhaps isn’t as far off as we think.

Is It Happening Now? The whole world loves Coca-Cola, although no one really knows what its made of…We’ve also had genetically modified vegetables for a long time now, but recently steps have been taken to introduce test-tube meat. How long will it be until there is a total disconnect between traditional farming and the food on our plates?

Josh’s Symmetrical Parking Lot

Josh is no longer doodling in class!

From time to time we have the opportunity to celebrate the entrepreneurial achievements of one of our students.

A few weeks ago we wrote a profile on Mary, who had successfully grown a ‘Pick-Your-Own-Farm’ business from scratch. This week we’re taking a look at another success story from within our school system, its a young lad that’s the talk of the playground, as he’s controversially, transformed a hectare of land on the edge of town into a perfectly symmetrical car park.

Joshua is in his 2nd year at Bry More and has always shown an interest in Diversification.

Although students at Bry More usually specialise in more niche Agricultural practices, Josh has always been fascinated by the endless possibilities that a piece of land contains. A bright, talented student who has a reputation for creating fantastic works of art during break times, Josh has spent the last year working on designs for a project that might seem a little odd for a young man his age.

“I’ve always really enjoyed drawing. Whether its doodling in the back of an exercise book or taking a pencil and ruler to some graph paper, I find the process helps me deal with my condition. Drawing symmetrically has been something that’s always come naturally to me – although my Mum initially discouraged it, after a while she could see that it was something that I had a particular skill for.”

When he was 5, Josh was diagnosed with Autism. 10 years ago, this condition was understood less than it is today, as a result he wasn’t given the best teaching suitable to his needs. Outside of the classroom he appeared to be like any other student, sociable and happy, but inside the class room he was quiet and uncommunicative. Whenever he found a particular problem or exercise difficult to deal with, he would often escape into the back of his work book and simply choose to doodle symmetrically for as long as he could get away with.

“The whole time I was meant to be learning, I was often just drawing. I guess I got away with it because I was always quiet and looked like I was always concentrating really hard – because I was!”

After a series of bad exam results, Josh was taken out of his school and relocated to Bry More where he could better apply his particular set of skills. Within weeks of joining the school, teachers began to see why he was failing and more attention was henceforth paid to him during lessons. Sure enough, Josh’s grades increased and with it his enthusiasm for a new project, only made possible by the tragic loss of his Grandmother.

“Nan was always really kind to me. Whenever I stayed over she would give me more pens and paper than I knew what to deal with! Dad told me I was always her favourite, that’s why I inherited the house from her instead of him. He told me that I was best off selling it and putting it into savings, but when I looked at the house, I saw something different. I saw a giant blank canvas, a huge sheet of paper that I could draw on to my heart’s content.”

When Josh presented his idea to his parents, they were initially sceptical, but after he explained the potential for profit that the car park could make, they were soon won round. Hundreds of people already booked parking for Liverpool Airport, just a short drive from his Grandmother’s home, why couldn’t he simply design a new one that would be closer and more convenient?

“Mum didn’t like the idea of demolishing Nan’s house at first, but she couldn’t deny that the business plan made a lot of sense. When it came down to it, she was the one to push the plunger on the detonation and I’ve never seen her so happy. Then came the part that I was looking forward to, covering it all over in tarmac and laying down the paint for my car park.”

Its been a busy year for Josh, with the tragedy of his Grandmother’s death and the building of his new business, but its one that’s seen him develop from an amateur doodler to a young professional who has never been happier.

 

Ethically Sourced Clothes Are Now A Reality

Would you like to know how your clothes are made?

What began with fair trade food has now blossomed into a full blown trend, where more and more people are concerned about where all their consumer goods come from.

Sweatshops are far from being a thing of the past. For decades the biggest brands in clothing have made the most of their multi-national status by setting their factories up in developing countries, where unemployment is high and they can make the most of extremely low rates of pay.

In countries like Thailand, big brands can hire a hundred people for the same money that it would cost for them to hire ten Americans on minimum wage. Compound this with corrupt government officials, as well as an extremely relaxed approach to workers’ basic rights and places like China are veritable gold mines for massive companies (where some workers take home as little as £120 for a full month’s work).

Slowly but surely, however, the buying public are waking up to the aggressive nature that these brands operate with, resulting in a growing interest in independent fashion manufacturers that specialise in chic clothes that are ethically sourced and sometimes even organic.

There are now more Ethical brands of clothing than you can shake an irate fist, so whether you’re looking for kids designer clothes or a new athleisure outfit, there’ll be an ethical clothing brand that’ll suite your budget and taste.

Krochet Kids Ltd.

The three men behind Krochet Kids started out crocheting their own garments for the slopes, before designing and creating garments for school friends. After studying in college, the three friends took their crocheting skills to Uganda and began teaching a group of women their craft. Over ten years later and the non-profit company now hires over 150 people in both Uganda and Peru. Their mission is to ‘Empower people to rise above poverty’ by paying them to create simple garments made out of high-quality materials – plus, their website is full of details on the people who make the clothes.

Mayamiko

Mayamiko Clothing was set up in 2013. A non-profit organisation conceived by philanthropist Paola Masperi, it works in tandem with the Mayamiko Trust, a charity dedicated to supporting small communities of creative talents throughout Africa. Creating colourful, durable clothes that have inherited the quintessential African style (bold prints and patterns), Mayamiko’s Ethical Promises are illustrative of the respect they have for their artisans. Offering living wages to all of their employees, they work in safe working conditions, are given a nutritious meal each day and are even given support to set up their own businesses.

Gather & See

UK based founders Alicia Taylor and Stephanie Hogg had become disillusioned with the disparity between the clothes they were buying and where they originated from. They wanted to buy clothes that were ethically made but also on-point stylistically. Since launching in 2014, they have delivered their classic styles of clothes to 19 different countries whilst also being named by the Telegraph as one of the Top 10 Ethical Brands. Designed by independent, creative individuals and sourced ethically, their range is wide and surprisingly affordable, considering the quality on offer.

Mary’s Pick-Your-Own Success

Our Mary’s Picking Up A Storm!

We’re fortunate to have over 600 talented students enrolled here at Bry More.

Each one of these exceptional kids has a passion for Agriculture which they exhibit every day in their theoretical and practical classes. Every now and again we’re proud to shine a light on a student who has gone beyond what is expected of them and achieved something amazing, inside or out of school time. This month we’re going to be focusing on Mary Ashelbeck, who has not only started her own ‘Pick-Your-Own’ Fruit enterprise but has also used the IT skills that she has learnt in school to market her business online.

Mary is in her 3rd year at Bry More, studying Plant Diversity, Business Enterprise and Fruit Management.

She won’t mind us mentioning here that she has struggled in her subjects at Brymore because of severe dyslexia that she has had to deal with throughout her educational life. Having grafted hard to pass her GCSEs, Mary surprised her parents by asking to continue her education. Her parents, both of whom work in the world of IT, had assumed that she would want to get out of education as soon as she could, however Mary evidently felt otherwise.

“I’d been told all my life that I ‘struggled’ with school work and that ‘some people just aren’t cut out for academia’. The sheer feeling of accomplishment that I felt after I passed all my GCSEs is hard to describe here. I felt like I’d proved everyone wrong: my teachers, my parents, even myself. So when it came time to choose what I wanted to do next, going into further education felt like the only option that was really open to me.”

After completing her first module at the school, Understanding Berries, Mary fell in love with the idea of creating her own ‘Pick-Your-Own’ experience. She had dim childhood memories of picking Strawberries with her parents, but remembered how ramshackle the farms always felt:

“My parents are both really fastidious people, everything has its place. I love the outdoors and wildlife, but I also appreciate things being in order. I started to dream of creating my own ‘Pick-Your-Own’ farm where the consumer experience was a lot cleaner and more aesthetic. By branding all the cartons and providing the customers with the opportunity to purchase accompaniments that compliment the fruit, I’ve found a way of enhancing the ‘Pick-Your-Own’ experience and give my customers an excuse to share their creations online.”

Mary’s ‘Pick-Your-Own’ Farm opened at the beginning of the school term in September, after she successfully secured financing from her parents. After reading through her 30-page proposal, which included several investment options in addition to aggressive plans for franchising, they had ‘no choice’ but to say yes. Since then, Mary has been carefully balancing her business responsibilities with her school life – not an easy task for a 14 year old!

“Sometimes it can be difficult to see where the school work ends and the business work begins. So much of what I learn in school is applicable to my business, that I’m often adapting and tweaking my plan in response to what I’ve learnt. I’m just happy that I’ve created something that others can enjoy!”

Renewable Energy: How Farms Can Benefit

Renewable energy systems that support a farm’s income.

Thanks to progressive reforms made by David Cameron’s coalition government, farms can enjoy considerable benefits and bonuses from installing renewable energy systems on their holdings.

The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) was introduced in 2011, it granted homeowners and farmers the opportunity to receive monetary payments from the government in return for renewable energy generated on their land. We currently live in a time of great technological advancement, so farmers have more options that ever when it comes to what form of renewable energy that they choose to back.

Sustainable Wood Pellet Fuels

Biomass fuels have been on the rise in the last decade, particularly in America where more and more vehicles are now running on vegetable-based fuels. Although there are many differing forms of biomass that can be produced and used by a British Farm, one format is considered to be the soundest choice.

Wood fuel pellets, created by processing sustainably grown trees, are currently the most popular choice amongst farmers looking to receive money back from the RHI. Although farmers can buy organic wood pellets from a number of online providers, if they have the space they can also choose to grow and harvest their own source of wood, so that they can take greater control of their carbon footprint and sell any excess on to others.

Methane Gas Reclamation

Dairy and beef farming have come under fire recently from a number of environmental welfare charities that oppose the destructive effect that it has on the environment. Although the claims of these NGOs are based on sound science, their findings have been exaggerated and distorted by certain opportunistic film-makers.

Documentaries supporting the growing Vegan movement, such as Cowspiracy and Vegucated, have started a zeitgeist that combines hyper-environmentalism and animal rights activism, leading to a new anti-meat farming trend. With scientific breakthroughs in ‘clean-meat’ (chicken and duck have now been successfully grown from a test tube) farmers are now looking to limit the amount of methane that their farms emits, whilst re-purposing it for use on their own holdings.

Solar Farm Installations

Solar panels are one of the most recognisable forms of renewable energy production. In the early days of the RHI they were one of the most popular choices for renewable energy installations. Easy to install and cheap, they tend to provide a quicker return on investment than most other renewables.

Consumers and farmers alike cashed in by installing banks of panels on the roofs of their buildings, but recently landowners have been taking this one step further. By clearing out their fields and installing giant banks of panels, farmers can make use of fallow lands and simultaneously capitalise on RHI. More and more solar farms are installed each year, leading some to worry about the future of traditional farming, whereas others are simply outraged by the unsightly appearance of dozens of black panels covering what was once green hills.

Diversification: A Multifaceted Farm

Farms now need to be more than just producers in order to flourish.

The Farming industry has changed irrevocably over the last century.

In the 21st Century, the farm owners and landholders of Britain have to be more than simply workers of the land. Operating a successful agricultural business in modern Britain is now a gargantuan task involving multiple skill sets including: people management, business-to-business communications, marketing and many more. But it hasn’t always been like this, 50 years ago the farming landscape of Britain looked very different.

Although Britain has long been a nation that has specialised in Agriculture, there was a time when the entire industry was on the brink of chaos. After the Second World War, Britain’s farms were in crisis. Over 450,000 British people died during the course of WWII, just under 1% of the total population. This might not sound like a huge number, but consider that this is essentially 1 in every 100 people and that the majority of these deaths were men of working age, involved in either agriculture or industry, and you can see why this had such a significant impact on Great Britain’s farms.

Thankfully, the Agriculture Act of 1947 drastically reordered and revitalised the way that the government could interact with farms. The act, above all else, offered stability to the farmer, guaranteeing more secure markets and prices so that the land holder knew what price he could get for his product before selling.

The Act also gave landowners greater rights to tenure, meaning that their land could no longer be taken away from them as easily. These reformative bills gave post-War farmers the much needed security that they needed to turn a decent profit throughout the Baby Boom period, but would not be enough to protect them from the decades of austerity that were soon to follow.

Towards the late 1970s, the government decided that the country’s agricultural system needed to be reviewed. Unfortunately, by the time this review got underway, the Margaret Thatcher administration had taken control. Soon new laws relating to both succession rights, and the value of the milk quota attached to land, significantly changed the relationship between the landowner and the tenant. Still, British farms managed to persevere throughout these tough times.

How have they managed to survive throughout a handful of financial crashes and turbulent times? Diversification.

Nearly 70% of the land mass in the UK is used for Farming and half of all farmers in the UK supplement their income through diversification – adding £10,400 on average to British farms’ total revenue. Diversification can take many forms – some farmers choose to convert part of their holdings into tourist attractions, like Farmer Palmer’s Farm Park in Poole, whereas others innovate, creating their own products and niches, like Martin Hamilton from County Down.

In the face of falling figures in the agricultural sector; Martin Hamilton and his team reshaped their enterprise into a wholly new business, shifting away from a more traditional farm-retailer relationship. Mash Direct was born over a Sunday roast and the idea is a surprisingly simple one. Growing their land ownership from 93 hectares to 570 in the space of around 10 years, the family have flourished, selling their vegetable accompaniments to independent stores as well as some of the bigger retail companies, such as ASDA.

Entering into the retail market was not a move that that family undertook lightly. From the start, they understood that they needed to be consistently developing new products, not only to keep up with their newfound competitors but also to maintain the company’s forward momentum. By maintaining a constant presence at Farmer’s Markets, Trade Shows and Food Festivals, the family has been able to keep tabs on what consumers want from them, so that they can continue developing products that sell well.

Lastly, Martin has secured his family business as an integral part of the community, by being the first businessman to launch a junior entrepreneur programme on their farm. Inviting over 300 pupils from local village schools, he has worked to inspire 10 and 11 year old kids to think laterally about developing their own business visions.

Martin’s is a typical diversification success story, an example of a business that has managed to come back from the brink by tirelessly innovating and challenging the conceptions of how a modern farm can function in the 21st century.