News, stories and reports from Forestry Commission Scotland and the National Forest Estate

First starter farm for the Highlands

Lambing season has now well and truly arrived and with that comes news that new tenants have been given their keys to our eighth starter farm in Achnamoine in Caithness. 

lambs paintedited

The starter farm programme gives new farmers an opportunity to get their first foothold into the farming industry. This farm is the first in the Highlands, and will be run by Sandy and Kirsteen Douglas, a local family from Quoybrae in Caithness.

Mr Douglas was previously farm manager and head yardsman at Quoybrae livestock mart in Caithness. Along with looking after the Mart’s sheep, Mr Douglas keeps a small flock of his own and is well known in sheep breeding circles for his Charolais and Blueface Leister sheep. These sheep will form the basis of the flock for the starter farm, where he intends to build on his reputation of breeding quality hardy animals.

Sandy Douglas said: “We are really pleased to be taking on this new starter farm. It is great news for us as a family, especially as it is so local.

“The whole process of applying for a starter farm was really useful too. It helped us concentrate our business plans for the future and target our priorities.”

Achnamoine is small farm, with a house, a range of semi modern buildings and a new general purpose shed. The land is suitable for grazing and has potential for woodland planting. 

Achnamoine farm house


There are now Forestry Commission Scotland starter farms under occupancy across Scotland including units in Fife, Ayrshire, Stirlingshire, Aberdeenshire and Dumfriesshire.

We have just closed to applications for a further two farms both of which received considerable interest. Woodfold near Huntly will be the ninth farm, offering a good mix of arable, permanent pasture and rough grazing along with a farmhouse and suitable farm buildings.

Woodfold farm

The 10th starter farm is Gourdie on the outskirts of Dundee. This was originally put on the market last year but a suitable tenant wasn’t found. We listened to our target audience requirements and have re-packaged this with a more focused and targeted horticultural unit. The balance of the good quality arable land at Gourdie will continue to be conventionally let for arable production.

Key facts:

  • New entrants to farming were first offered the chance to lease part-time ‘starter farm’ units on Scotland's National Forest Estate as part of a pilot initiative introduced in January 2012.

  • The starter farm programme gives new farmers an opportunity to get their first foothold into the farming industry. Successful entrants to a starter farm are given a 10 year lease to enable them to build up a farming business using land and property on the National Forest Estate. 

  • It is hoped that successful applicants will gain valuable experience in managing their own farm business on a small scale, before moving on to larger scale operations at the end of their lease period.

  • The initiative was developed to complement our woodland creation activity, which delivers a vital part of Scottish Ministers’ climate change programme. It also complements our wider commitment to maximising integrated land use opportunities on the National Forest Estate.