Clydesdale Bank shines light on young female fourth generation farmer growing pumpkins and local produce.
With Halloween around the corner Westerton Farms is harnessing the power of a Pick Your Own harvest to bring in seasonal success. Growing spring barley, wheat, potatoes, vegetables, and daffodils, Fiona Smith (nee Gammie) is a young, 34-year-old agri-entrepreneur who runs an 840-acre farm along with her Father as a family enterprise in the North East of Scotland. Since restructuring in 2015, with the help of Colin Milne, their long-term agricultural advisor at Clydesdale Bank, the farm has begun growing vegetables, proving to be a sound strategy bringing greater community ties as well as commercial benefits.
A Pick Your Own Pumpkin patch welcomes the public onto the farm during the October open weekend each year, this month on the 24th and 25th, with some after-school pickings for everyone to enjoy the activity. This crowd-pleasing diversification initiative relies on a half an acre patch of land, double last year’s quarter acre, and produces around 1500-1600 pumpkins and squash. The popular Halloween decorations are sold to the public based on weight.
Fiona is very passionate about reducing food waste and encourages her customers to use their pumpkins for making chutneys, pies and using the seeds. The positive response has seen the small crop become a new income stream for the family, with a lot of potential for the future.
Cairnton Farm’s fourth generation farmer commented on the impact so far. She said: “The reason for doing this was to look at ways to improve the business and diversify. As well as our arable enterprises we used to rear cattle but sold our herd in early 2020. Looking at our staffing and where our passion was focused, we decided to go down the vegetable route, allowing us to sell direct to the public. I love engaging with our customers and connecting with the community, it helps to build knowledge on how food is grown and where it comes from which is really important.
“Pick Your Own Pumpkin patch a great public event, and we really enjoy hosting the event and market. We also offer quad pod rides, invite market stalls with produce, coffees, and food. This year we are ticketing the event to make sure we can manage numbers, as it’s usually very popular, especially as it’s the last weekend before Halloween.”
Fiona’s connection with Clydesdale Bank is stronger than most, as she used to work for the Bank starting as a graduate in 2008, before she dedicated herself full-time to running the family farm. Based near Laurencekirk, in the South of Aberdeenshire, the Gammie family have farmed there since 1920 and have generations of experience behind them to make the diversification strategy a success.
Speaking about the support received from the Bank, Fiona said: “We have an amazing advisor who has been a huge support. Colin Milne really understands us and got our objective when we wanted to rethink our commercial focus. He always points us in the right direction when thinking about innovative and viable new produce. His help also comes in the form of guidance which helped us to secure a loan to install a new Ground Source Heat Pump System, which is a renewable energy source and improves the farm’s long-term sustainability.”
Colin Milne, Agricultural Relationship Manager at Clydesdale Bank, has been supporting the Gammie family with business advice for decades. Colin spoke about the farm’s prospects: “I really enjoy collaborating with farming families to make a diversification plan come to fruition, and to see it deliver benefits beyond those anticipated is such rewarding work. Fiona is so passionate about education and bringing the classroom out to the countryside, that I have no doubt Westerton Farmers will continue to go from strength to strength. Developing long-term relationships is really key to getting under the skin of a business, and absolutely crucial to securing the capital needs of a viable financial plan.”
Beyond Pick Your Own, which now includes salad potatoes in the summer, the farm has also branched out into its own farm shop, called the Spud Hut, which has expanded to include a wide variety of locally sourced and home-grown produce including: carrots, cauliflower, cabbage, lettuce, beetroot, broccoli, neeps and of course pumpkins too! The Gammie Family also raise income streams with daffodil bulbs, malting barley, wheat, ware potatoes and seed potatoes mainly for the crisping market.
Clydesdale Bank continues to support farmers with innovative investments, arranging overdraft facilities, and financial planning. The Agricultural Relationship Managers play a vital role in getting the best commercial outputs out of farming, working closely with customers to provide the agricultural financing and guidance they need. The banking services meet both day-to-day requirements, as well as funds for longer term projects in agricultural entrepreneurship such as projects for diversification schemes, organic conversion, or environmental investments.