As part of our campaign to back British farming, we sit down and speak to farmers about all things farming – sharing knowledge, experience and opportunity in the industry. In this blog we spoke with James and Harry at Aikengall Farm (@aikengallfarm), Scottish beef and sheep farmers. They helped us understand the farm they work on, the livestock they keep, and the history and tradition within their farming family…
What kind of farm do you work on, is it just sheep or other animals too?
Aikengall and Nunraw are upland beef and sheep farms based in the Lammermuir Hills.
Do you come from a family where farming is a major tradition? If so, for how many generations?
Yes – we started 7 generations ago in Parish of Drumclog near Straven! Our family moved from there to Woolfords in 1864 and then we moved when our father bought Aikengall in 1998. We started working at Nunraw in 2010.
What do you feel are the challenges of farming?
Everything is a challenge in farming! Kidding, but there are many challenges including weather, external economic factors and government policies. You can do everything right and still there will be an animal with four feet pointing to the sky when you go out in the morning! However, even with the challenges there are also benefits. Working on your own with animals, lots of space, being your own boss, and the social side are all great! Personally, we also really value improving the land. Leaving it better than we found it is crucial.
What advice would you give to aspiring sheep farmers?
Don’t. (Again… joking) Stick at it! Always buy the best genetics you can afford. One of the great guiding mottos we have had in life is ‘never let your farm know you’re poor’.
What are your future plans for your livestock?
Keep them progressing in terms of commerciality, trying to breed functional animals that can survive and thrive in our upland environments whilst also generating the significant carbon positive farming that we all know this great industry is capable of.
Can you sum up your life in agriculture, reflecting on the journey you have undertaken to date?
Agriculture has been our whole life. It’s given us everything but it’s taken everything as well. We lost a brother and our father to farming. However the nature of our business gives us a great sense of pride. Farming gives us the ability to appreciate life cycles, life can be cruel but it can also be kind. Spring comes around every year with its new life, and sometimes that is what gets you through the winter. Well, that and the shooting season…
Whilst the baton was passed on earlier than any of us would have wanted, it is our great responsibility to keep that baton safe until it’s time to pass it on again. Finishing on one of dad’s favourite sayings… ‘Live as if you’ll die tomorrow, farm and breed stock as if you’ll live forever’.
If you’re a farmer and you’d like to contribute in our campaign to raise awareness for the incredible work in British agriculture, please drop us a DM on Instagram – @aplanrural