18 March 2019
We were delighted to welcome Sam Parsons as speaker on the 18th March. Sam, who is Balcaskie Estate Manager, came as guest of club member Colin Campbell.
Following the usual club business we were treated to a comprehensive illustrated talk about the Estate. This started with a history of the House and estate origins, through current operations and developments and looking forwards to future plans, projects and dreams.
The estate covers some 2000 Ha and in altitude ranges from sea level to maybe 650 feet. We heard of the aims to be financially sustainable, to build environmental capital and to build social capital.
Sam gave a fluent and enthusiastic tour of the many ventures already active at Balcaskie - from arable farming, grain for brewing, beef production and wild game management to the development of steadings for business units and the ‘Bowhouse’ spaces to build a life and business.
We read much in the press about ‘care for the environment’ and it was a pleasure to hear that this local estate is already deeply into conservation of the built environment, soil health improvement, biomass management, conversion to organic production and much more.
An interesting thought was the suggestion that it is important to revise our thinking about food production - from quantity (tonnes) to quality (nutrient value).
Although the estate sells beef to big buyers like ALDI, M&S - and McDonalds, there is a desire to develop ways to maximise returns by shortening the route from estate to consumer. The relatively recent monthly food markets, currently attract 4 to 6000 people each time - showing considerable potential.
Sam spoke also of the Estate’s desire to find ways of increasing rural jobs. A chart showed ‘direct’ Estate jobs in 1905 to be around 100 people. By 2008 this had dropped to 6 - but with recent initiatives could now be assessed at around 94. The most recent of these initiatives is a scheme to rent out 2-acre plots of land. A first plot is already in use by a lady who is making a living by growing cut flowers.
Altogether a privileged look at an impressive local success story and, following questions, club member Eric Dewhirst proposed an appreciative vote of thanks. More about Balcaskie can be found at the website (http://www.balcaskie.co.uk)