A TEAM of pioneering young farmers and crofters have been appointed to champion a 'cultural and behavioural' shift towards low-carbon, environmentally sustainable farming in Scotland.

These Young Farmer Climate Change Champions – Aimee and Kirsty Budge of Bigton farm, Shetland; Lynn Cassells and Sandra Baer, of Lynbreck Croft, in the Cairngorms; Robert Fleming, of Castle Sinniness Farm, Galloway; and Bryce Cunningham, of Mossgiel Farm, Ayrshire – will work through peer-to-peer learning to highlight how farmers can improve efficiency, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce costs, and enhance the sustainability of their businesses.

Scottish rural affairs minister Mairi Gougeon announced the initiative, which honours a commitment made in the SNP's 'Programme for Government' , whilst visiting Lynbreck Croft, a 150-acre mixed habitat croft enterprise located in the Cairngorms National Park, where Ms Cassels and Ms Baer have used their backgrounds in conservation to develop a business model that delivers for nature, improves the health of the land and enhances the well-being of their animals, all while producing high quality food.

Ms Gougeon said: “We want farmers and crofters to move towards a more profitable, low-carbon, environmentally sustainable future, adapting to the changing climate and securing business viability for future generations.

“It is great to see so many examples of young farmers leading the way when it comes to tackling climate change, and embracing the kind of on farm practices we need to see replicated across the industry. That’s why I have asked the champions to engage with their peers to highlight good practice and some of the actions they have taken to increase sustainability, protect our natural environment, and reduce costs and emissions on their farms and crofts," said Ms Gougeon.

“By driving this shift towards low-carbon, environmentally sustainable farming, the champions will demonstrate the benefits of reducing the use of certain fertilisers, reduce the intensity of our meat production, and encourage the uptake of carbon sequestration through working with the natural environment on their farms and crofts. This is a really exciting initiative, which I look forward to seeing develop and prosper in the months ahead.”

As well as the Lynbreck duo – who currently feature in the BBC's 'This Farming Life' series – the Climate Change Champions line-up represents something of a roll-call of Scottish farming's celebrity younger generation.

Shetland's award-winning Budge sisters, who also feature in 'This Farming Life', are already acting as their island's monitor farmers, trialling ideas for their neighbours' benefit on their 300-hectare unit, where they have 240 Shetland-cross ewes and 70 calving cows, as well as producing barley to feed their stock.

Mr Fleming, who farms a total of 240 hectares in partnership with his father John and mother Rachael, runs a low-input grass and forage-based system which supports the main herd of 220 Aberdeen-Angus and Angus cross suckler cows and followers. The operation was declared AgriScot's Scotch Beef Farm of the Year in 2017, and has been held up as an environmentally-friendly model for other Scotch beef producers to follow.

Ayrshire's Mr Cunningham hit the headlines with his efforts to turn his farm into the first 'plastic free' organic dairy in Britain, with the crowd-pleasing hook of a return to glass milk bottles. The 31-year-old, who took over the Mauchline family business in 2015 following the death of his dad, has already secured official organic status for his herd of Ayrshire cows.

For in-depth news and views on Scottish agriculture, see this Friday’s issue of The Scottish Farmer or visit www.thescottishfarmer.co.uk