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Growing Crops for Human Consumption

For many livestock farmers looking to change direction, the first option explored is whether they can grow crops for human consumption. In some cases, such as the very successful Stewarts of Tayside, the switch from sheep and cattle to soft fruits and vegetable cash-crops financed the purchase of the farm, leading them to become the largest independent soft fruit grower in Scotland.

For many farmers, though, the challenge will be the type of land they have. Seventy-seven percent of Scottish agricultural land is deemed rough grazing or permanent pasture and, as such, traditionally unsuitable for cropping (in our case studies you’ll meet some innovative growers who have beaten this challenge).

Only 9% of Scotland’s agricultural land is currently cropped. However, half of this cropland is used to grow animal feed including over fifty percent of the cereals we grow and more than half of the veggies. So, there is considerable room for change there.

It’s not just about fruit and veggies, but about expanding the potential of some of the other crops that we already grow – such as wheat and oats; and resurrecting some of the oldies – such as hemp -in order to cash in on expanding markets.

Currently, the UK imports around fifty percent of the food we eat including more than ninety percent of our fruits and vegetables. A 2019, UK-based study from Harvard Law School showed that if we use all current UK cropland to grow crops for human consumption then we can more than provide for the calorific, protein and nutrient needs of every person in the UK.

With our departure from the European Union, increasing our food self-sufficiency and food security are important and exciting goals. Our case-studies highlight pioneer growers who take us closer to these goals by creating new opportunities for healthy, efficient, and profitable food production.

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