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Growing crops for human consumption

For many livestock farmers looking to change direction, the first option explored is whether they can grow crops for human consumption. In some cases, such as the very successful Stewarts of Tayside, the switch from sheep and cattle to soft fruits and vegetable cash-crops financed the purchase of the farm, leading them to become the largest independent soft fruit grower in Scotland.

The challenge for many farmers, though, will be the type of land they have. Seventy-seven percent of Scottish agricultural land is deemed rough grazing or permanent pasture and, as such, traditionally unsuitable for cropping (in our case studies you’ll meet some innovative growers who have beaten this challenge).

Only 9% of Scotland’s agricultural land is currently cropped. However, half of this cropland is used to grow animal feed including over fifty percent of the cereals we grow and more than half of the veggies. So, there is considerable room for change there.

It’s not just about fruit and veggies, but about expanding the potential of some of the other crops that we already grow – such as wheat and oats; and resurrecting some of the oldies – such as hemp -in order to cash in on expanding markets.

Currently, the UK imports around fifty percent of the food we eat including more than ninety percent of our fruits and vegetables. A 2019, UK-based study from Harvard Law School showed that if we use all current UK cropland to grow crops for human consumption then we can more than provide for the calorific, protein and nutrient needs of every person in the UK.

With our departure from the European Union, increasing our food self-sufficiency and food security are important and exciting goals. Our case-studies highlight pioneer growers who take us closer to these goals by creating new opportunities for healthy, efficient, and profitable food production.


Case Studies

  • From Livestock Farming to Market Gardening: A Lifelong Journey of the Heart
    Farming has been a part of my life since I was a child. I grew up on a mixed vegetable and dairy farm
  • John Letts
    John Letts, Continuous No-Input Cereal Cropping with Heritage Grains Beginning on his small farm in Oxfordshire, and now covering a total area of 1500 acres and still expanding, John Letts has achieved something that even organic experts have labelled ‘impossible’: growing cereals continuously in a stockless, organic system in the same field. In fact, John… Read more: John Letts
  • Thorncroft
    Visiting the Orkney archipelago for the first time, it is striking how the landscape is almost completely dominated by livestock with some patches of cereal crops here and there. Yet, tucked in amongst all of this, on the island of Westray lies Thorncroft which immediately stands apart from (and to a certain extent, towers above) its surroundings on first sight.
  • Tolhurst Organic
    The importance of Tolhurst Organic in the world of stockfree farming is immense – a living example of a thriving farm business set in just under 20 acres in Oxfordshire, using absolutely no animal inputs and producing a vast array of vegetables and fruits for a local customer base.
  • Gina Bates, Highland Veganics
    Gina Bates, Highland Veganics Bordering on the banks of the beautiful Oykel River, in the heart of Sutherland’s sheep country, Gina Bates is creating the first plant-protein croft in the Scottish Highlands! At the start of February, 2020, Gina and a crew of volunteers began planting an orchard of 312 hazelnut trees on her 80… Read more: Gina Bates, Highland Veganics

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