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!

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.


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!”