Older Scots Pine in the Millbuie Forest (c) Julian Paren
Alternative Land Use
Native Tree Planting
This year, the Scottish Government have pledged £64 million to forestry and £40 million to the Agricultural Transformation Programme – an initiative implemented specifically to “support farming’s contribution to meeting Scotland’s climate change ambitions”. Tree planting is a key part of this measure.
Robin Bell planted 22,000 trees – native Scots pine, oak and birch – on 34 acres of his Sutherland croft. The Forestry Grant Scheme will pay him around £4,000/year for the next five years.
Ecosystem Restoration | Rewilding
The Scottish Government is currently piloting systems of support for farmers to restore ecosystems. For inspiration see Scotland The Big Picture.
Alley involves planting food crops or speciality crops between rows of trees (e.g. nut trees or hard wood trees). The crops can provide an income stream whilst the nut trees come into bearing. The trees provide shelter, prevent erosion, and turn marginal or poor cropland into higher value woodland.
A lazy bed, otherwise known as a “ridge and furrow”, is a historic arable cultivation method that was especially useful for people living in marginal areas such as uplands and islands where there were thin soils and poor drainage. Lazy beds are created by turning over the soil either side of a strip of land back onto itself, to form a ridge in the centre with two ditches (or furrows) either side of it (Watch this video for an example). Whilst establishing a lazy bed can be labour intensive, creating one helps improve soil drainage, increases the soil depth, and increases the soil temperature within the ridge. Lazy beds are generally associated with growing potatoes but many other crops are suitable. For example, barley, oats, rye, flax, hemp, and turnips were all historically known to be included in lazy bed rotations, although many more crops can be expected to be suitable for this system. There is evidence that adding seaweed to a lazy bed is vital for obtaining high yields, however, for areas where seaweed isn’t readily available, perhaps using green manures in a lazy bed rotation can achieve a similar result. All the information on lazy beds here is sourced from Knox et al.’s (2015) paper “Improved sustainability and ecosystem services from seaweed additions to an old agricultural production
Invented in Shetland, polycrubs are like a cross between a polytunnel and a planticrub (a circular enclosure made of dry-stone which was historically used to protect crops against the wind). So while it retains the shape and function of a polytunnel, it’s design and it’s stronger components allows it to endure much harsher weather conditions, particularly gale force winds. This makes polycrubs ideal for farmers and crofters located in less favourable microclimates where they may want to extend their growing season or diversify into growing crops for human consumption. The polycrub website features an article on a family living on a Hebridean croft who received a CAGS grant to help establish a polycrub on their land.
Since 1993, when the first green burial site was opened in the UK, their popularity has increased significantly. Today, there are 360 sites, and demand continues to rise.
One of 20 Scottish green burial sites is Clovery Woods of Rest
Farmland can be a great space for outdoor weddings, offering a great change of scenery from the traditional indoor setting.
While the bigger, past festivals like T-in-the-park and Rockness may come to mind, there are a brilliant variety of smaller music festivals throughout Scotland that farmland could be suited to hosting. Electric Fields Festival, Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival, Oban Live and the Kelburn Garden Party are some examples of popular outdoor music festivals.
For more information on festivals in Scotland, see Inverness Gigs.
Photo: Oban Live
Secure Dog Walking
Secured dog walking fields provide a great, safe environment for dogs to enjoy more freedom while exercising. At the same time, it can generate an extra source of income and can make use of marginal land that isn’t otherwise being used regularly. Run Free (https://runfreedogfields.co.uk/) has 12 secured dog walking fields throughout Scotland.