Progress looks like this

So, this came today. Our ‘authority to start work’. Basically, the final step in our approval for the Agri-Enviroment Grant we submitted last year. And it changes so much for the farm – we are so excited!


It’s not just about the money either, it’s what that money will do, and what our success in receiving the grant means about our approach to farming.

You see, much of the work projects this grant requires of us were in our plans already – because they make good sense for the health of the flora and fauna (and people) that live at the Hirsel. We will be plowing and replanting a field: this grant instructs us in what to plant and when to graze or cut it, and neither instruction is far off from what we wanted to do anyway…but this grant gives us a budget that we’d have to otherwise scrape up somehow.
To do the work on that field requires more fencing work – but we had to do it eventually, and now we have a budget for that, too. Our little bit of wetlands will be grazed, and our pond brought back into life…again, work we meant to do some day, but now we have guidance and…yes, a budget.

All work we meant to do, as we continue our efforts to bring the farm back into production after 30 years of neglect. The fact that so many of the tasks tied to this grant are things we meant to do anyway, means our focus on regenerative, flora-and-fauna-friendly methods are bringing us support and vindication.

There are challenges that come with this grant, changes to the timelines of other projects… we were going to build a holiday hut for our guests, in the spare (ha!) hours in between lambs over the next couple of months, but fencing, grazing and planting deadlines now mean that the build won’t happen until later in the year. But it – and other postponed plans WILL still happen. So that’s all good.

This grant, and another we hope to submit for plumbing and electrical upgrades, will have huge implications for some of the dreams we have for the Hirsel’s future as a sustainable farm and community asset. We are indebted to SRUC/SAC for their assistance in submitting it – we can’t recommend them enough. We’ll be back in their office soon, working on next steps.

Stay tuned, and thank you for joining us on our amazing adventures at #thehirsel! We hope to see you in person sometime soon.

3 thoughts on “Progress looks like this

  1. The Big Garden and Croft

    J & D > Congratulations! It’s good to have plans with a future – especially when you get a helping hand. Your croft has a lot more going for it than ours, because of it being relatively sheltered – it has big trees!, and more diverse. We know that the best thing we can do for the future of our croft – as an asset of the community, thinking of that in the broadest possible sense – is to establish a significant cover of woodland. However we have been told that we will not get a grant for that, because of the severe exposure means that woodland cannot be economically viable, but we might as part of an agri-environment scheme, but we found as you have that there are lots of strings attached, which in our case we no longer feel we can be sure to fulfill, or we might not actually agree with. It’s a pity, because there is nothing we want more than to be adding sustainably – permanently – to the intrinsic worth of the land. We wish for you both success and happiness in carrying through these plans for your croft!

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    1. Donna Gillies Post author

      Thank you so much! Yes, there are so many strings attached – to any funding really. I spent my days in the arts before I became a farmer, and know that this isn’t unique to farming. But yeah, we had to think hard about applying for this one. The thing that worked in our favor is the fact that we wanted to do so much of it anyway – our hands were just forced on the timing. But we’re at the point where we simply cannot do everything we want/need to do without funding, so… I sympathize with your exposure issue, and the woodland. One of the unintended benefits of the Hirsel being neglected for so long is that our woodland actually spread! We’re only pushing it back as far as we absolutely have to – and our Hebs eat some of it now too. Good luck to you – I have a lot of respect for your stamina on your croft! We’ll come see you sometime, eh? -donna

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