Programme of events

With a full programme of exhibiting classes, seminars and demonstrations there’s something to see all day at the Festival.

Seminars and demonstrations 2018

Once again the Festival has a broad and interesting series of seminars and demonstrations on topics relating to smallholding, all included in the ticket price.

10:00amKeep Scotland the Brand
Ruth Watson
Ruth Watson worked as a journalist and broadcaster in Orkney and Shetland where she had a special interest in farming and fisheries before moving to work on the BBC News and Current affairs programmes, ‘Speaking Out’ and ‘Night Moves’. In 1995, she won the Commission for Racial Equality’s ‘Race in the Media’ Award.

Ruth was a member of the National Union of Journalists’ Black Members Council as well as sitting on BBC Scotland's Equal Opportunity Committee.

For ten years, Ruth lived overseas in Malaysia and Australia. While in Malaysia she was acquainted with business and political leaders. She accepted the role of Consultant Sub-Editor in a local media group.

Ruth started the #keepScotlandtheBrand campaign last October when she realised the extent of the threat the loss of Scotland's brand identity posed to farming; fishing; rural communities; to our food and drink sector, including the loss of PGI and our high food standards.
Snack Bar
10:00amAdding value through small-scale food production – it’s not as hard as you think!
Alison Lothian Food Safety Officer and Irene Robertson, Food Safety Officer, Angus Council
Adding value to primary produce from the smallholding either through direct selling to the consumer or by producing jams, chutneys, baking etc is a great way of increasing income from your smallholding. But many folk are put off by the perception that it’s a legislative minefield.

With over 30 years (each!!) in Local Authority Food Enforcement from farm to fork, Alison and Irene have seen it all.

They’ll give an overview of food safety legislation and guidance, with signposting to further information. They will also talk about farm gate sales, farmers’ markets, home made products, open farms and labelling.

So if you want to add value to your produce, make room for this talk in your diary.
Sheep Ring
10:00amWeed control without chemicals
Soil Association Scotland
When rushes and other weeds encroach into pasture it can affect forage quality and increase dependence on bought-in silage and hay.

Controlling them can be challenging whether or not you use chemicals, but this talk will discuss ways to promote the soil conditions that encourage vigorous grass growth and defeat weeds. We will also look at the technical challenges posed by rushes, and suggest practical solutions that participants can implement on their own ground.
Store Ring
11:00amAgricultural Tenancies – what’s what for tenant and landowner
Angus McCall, Scottish Tenant Farmers Association
A major hurdle for aspiring smallholders is access to land. For those with capital, it’s difficult – for those without, it’s very, very difficult. But smallholders can be both tenants and potential landlords. Buying a property with more land that you can currently use – could you let it to another aspiring smallholder? Or winding down, but wanting to see your land cared for and worked?

There are options for letting land that can work to the benefit of the landowner, the tenant AND the land itself.

The Festival is delighted to have Angus McCall from the Scottish Tenant Farmers Association explain the various options so that more land might be released to small farmers and growers.

The STFA has evolved from the Scottish Tenant Farmers Action Group, which was formed in 2001 in response to the Scottish Executive’s tenancy reform proposals in the Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Bill which was passed in March 2003 and has recently become law.

The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association seeks to build upon the work done by the Action Group in supporting and enhancing the position of tenants within the Scottish landlord-tenant system. It represents and advises members on all aspects of agricultural tenancy and ancillary matters.

It aims to improve the professional and technical knowledge of its members, to encourage the flow of new tenancies onto the market and to help the farming industry understand and best apply the existing and new agricultural tenancy legislation.
Snack Bar
11:00amKeeping native ponies, naturally
Jane Cumberlidge
In this talk, Jane will explore how modern horse keeping practices are often at odds with the evolutionary needs of horses and how this impacts overall health and particularly hooves. Focusing on the three "F's" friendship, forage and freedom, Jane will discuss how we can keep our natives more naturally and the keys to successfully going barefoot - it's about so much more than just removing the shoes!

Jane Cumberlidge is a Barefoot Hoof Care Professional, member of Barefootworks Hoof Care Practice and has been caring for horses’ feet for the past 13 years. Co-author of "Barefoot Horse Keeping - The Integrated Horse", she is passionate about taking an equi-centric, holistic approach to horse care. She has three horses, two dogs and is in the process of restoring 8 acres to create a horse healthy habitat.
Sheep Ring
11:00amA Smallholder’s Tale: Blogs, Bovines and babies - Improving efficiency with self-sufficiency
Tim and Beth Rose
Tim and Beth Rose have a 35-acre croft that backs onto the Monadhliath mountains in the Highlands, which they secured in 2011. It had been lying fallow for many years and had no boundary fences, outbuildings or house. Since then the place has gained stock proof fences, a byre, various sheds, machinery, a vegetable garden, soft fruit area, orchard, polytunnel, wine cellar, and a house. They have Shetland cattle, variety of sheep, chickens, ducks and pigs. Meat, eggs and vegetables are sold and hay has been made on the croft for the past three years.

Because Tim works off shore, Beth oversees the croft and deals with any issues on her own. However, in 2017, a Mini Crofter was added to the croft, changing the croft’s working practice and with this the need to improve the efficiency of it as, until early 2018, Beth was also working in the NHS (she’s now on a career break).

Progressing the croft over the the past couple of years has involved improving livestock handling areas, learning more about cattle health (and dealing with deadstock), being pragmatic about lambing, and implementing knowledge gained for cultivating fields/land. Come along to hear how this has evolved, dealing with both the highs and lows of improving the croft.
Store Ring
12 noon“Everything livestock”
Perth Team, Animal and Plant Health Agency
Snack Bar
12 noonPoultry and feathered game preparation (2 hour session)
Gordon Gibb, Polaris Learning
Sheep Ring
12 noonPromoting and supporting pedigree pig breeding with artificial insemination (AI)
Ryan Perry
British breeds of pigs are in crisis. All eleven breeds are at risk of extinction. While many small scale breeders would like to breed pure, the cost of maintaining a boar for small numbers of sows, of maintaining unrelated bloodlines and the health issues and logistics of hiring a boar, mean that sometimes cross breeding seems like the only option. But this can mean that valuable pedigree genetics are lost.

Using artificial insemination (AI), can overcome many of the barriers to pedigree breeding. Ryan Perry is an experienced pig breeder who has had success with AI. He’ll explain the pros and cons and the techniques to help ensure a successful conception.

Ryan Perry hails from the North East of England. He has been involved with pigs for many years and has successfully bred Tamworth, Large Black and a range of other traditional, native breeds.
Store Ring
1:00pmTomna'a Market Garden: Growing Up
Judith McGowan
Tomnah'a Market Garden was established in 2016 with the aim to make a living from growing fruit, vegetables and cut flowers. The business uses wildlife friendly and intensive methods of growing to get the most from its 5 acres whilst improving the soil and biodiversity. During the talk, Judith will explain how they set up, how they grow and sell and answer any questions you might have,

Judith has been working on community growing projects until she set up the Market Garden with her two colleagues. She now works full time at Tomnah'a .
Snack Bar
1:00pmManaging a Diverse Holding
Gillian McKnight MCIEEM CEnv, SAC Consulting
Originally from a dairy and sheep farm in Dumfries-shire, Gillian studied the biology and geography including the physiology of pest control and soil science, followed by natural resource management. Later, she undertook conservation research projects before starting worked for FWAG (the Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group), then SAC in Inverness, nearly 20 years ago as a conservation consultant, covering the Highlands and Islands.

Gillian is a professional membership of the Institute of Environmental and Ecological Managers, and a Chartered Environmentalist (Society for the Environment) and has undertaken hundreds of agri-environment schemes for farmers and crofters; developed and managed biodiversity projects and contracts, vegetation surveys, habitat and species impact assessments for windfarm, hydro schemes and pipeline developments across a wide range of habitats, including designated sites.

Gillian also develops and facilitates conservation training to farmers and SAC colleagues and work with other specialists to encourage farmers, crofters and land managers to integrate conservation into their planning. She has a specialist interest in semi-natural grasslands and conservation grazing management using native breeds, and is currently focussing on pollinators as part of SAC’s involvement in delivering the Pollinator Strategy.

Gillian’s talk will look at: how to manage more species rich habitats, including grasslands, and connect landscape features. She will discuss grants where available.
Store Ring
2:00pmBig Boys’ (and girls’) Toys
Andy Findlay, SAC Consulting
A common headache for new (and old) smallholders is what machinery to buy – old tractor, new tractor, quad, 4WD, tank. It all depends on what operations you want or need to do and what your land is like – and how much money and what mechanical skills you have.

What’s certain is that most of us don’t have money to waste so Andy Findlay from SAC Consulting will outline the factors that need to be considered before we hit the cheque book. He’ll also cover aspects of safety around machinery.

A farmers son and worked on farms since leaving school, Andy ran his own farm machinery contracting business before getting involved in the Lantra training, which he has now done for over twenty years. For the past six years he has been based at SRUC’s Aberdeen Craibstone campus where he lectures on ‘agricultural mechanisation’. He also delivers health and safety advice all over the country and has helped on several occasions with the investigation of accidents that have unfortunately happened with machinery on farms/estates etc.

He has just returned from a trip to Iceland to look at their farming techniques out there as well as help with their historic turf building skills, whilst looking round their buildings.
Snack Bar
2:00pmAdding value to your wool
Agnes Gough
“You don’t miss what you have until it’s gone” sums up our speaker, Agnes Gough’s venture into smallholding. While she grew up on an arable farm in North East Scotland, visits to farming relatives & farm shops became her only connection to agriculture until she and her husband bought their own smallholding 10 years ago. She keeps various sheep breeds, including Scottish Bowmont, mainly for their wool. They also have some poultry for interest. Their smallholding & its ongoing renovation reminds them daily that there is more to life than money!

No matter how large or small our flocks are, if we keep sheep, we produce an annual wool clip.

How do you view your annual wool clip? As an asset or a liability? Do you treat it as a waste product and add to the compost heap? Are you relieved when the shearer offers to take the fleece away? Have you considered processing the fleece but don’t because you only have a small quantity?

Wool is a great natural fibre, that we should be proud to produce & promote. As the awareness of plastic pollution gathers pace, more people are looking at wool as a natural replacement. Wool is kind to the environment and increasingly in demand.

In this talk we will discuss the various options available to small wool producers from selling individual raw fleeces to producing a yarn. Some producers may prefer to promote their own enterprise whereas some may prefer to work as a co-operative to benefit from the economies of scale, share the financial costs of processing or promote an individual breed.
Sheep Ring
2:00pmGetting a good start: securing the best chance of healthy offspring
Dr Caroline Robinson MRCVS, SAC Consulting
Dr Caroline Robinson MRCVS is a Veterinary Investigation Officer with SAC Consulting, part of Scotland’s Rural College. In this role she investigates farm and exotic animal diseases, consults to vets in practice, monitors wildlife disease and provides veterinary advice to the police and the SSPCA. In addition, SRUC provides health and welfare advice to farmers and smallholders, and Caroline’s particular interest is the provision of services to smallholders and small farmers, with an emphasis on preventing problems before they occur.

Caroline’s talk this year will cover various tips to help ensure healthy offspring from livestock, which are most commonly missed, including considerations at the start of pregnancy/receipt of hatching eggs, reminders of various checks to do (so you have a fairly organised check list) and some circumstances this year which might possibly make next spring another “difficult one” like 2018 has been i.e. the quality and quantity of forage available, how to prevent problems if they are likely to arise, and how to spot them if they do.
Store Ring


  • Poultry & Waterfowl show judging starts at 9:30am in the main market.
  • Garden, Craft and Food competition judging starts at 9:30am in the Strathmore Hall

Rural skills

There are a small number of hands-on sessions and on-stand demonstrations throughout the day in the Rural Skills area,.

See the Rural Skills page for more information about pompom making, willow weaving, crook making, needlefelting, beeswax candle rolling, hand spinning and weaving.

Livestock Showcases

Our livestock showcases feature some of the most popular and some of the rarest breeds of livestock, ideal for smallholders. As well as seeing the animals you’ll be able to speak to the breeders and keepers, the ideal opportunity to gather all the information you need to choose your ideal breed.