WOULD-BE farmers are being offered a foot on the agricultural ladder with the tenancy to a “starter” farm in the Highlands.
The Scottish Government is particularly keen on attracting young people who aspire to run their own agricultural business.
The new site of the starter farm, called Balrobert Farm, had previously been a 120-hectare former bull stud near Inverness.
It was surplus to requirements following the construction of a state-of-the-art stud at Knocknagael and is the first government starter farm being offered to those wishing to start a career in the industry.
Such enterprises are being welcomed by the National Farmers Union (NFU) of Scotland in encouraging the next generation of farmers in the country.
There are seven Forestry Commission Scotland starter farms in operation, with a further two units planned, including enterprises in Fife, Ayrshire, Stirlingshire, Aberdeenshire, Dumfriesshire, Caithness and Tayside.
The new government starter site includes grazing and cropping land, along with numerous steading buildings for cattle and other animals.
Entrants are being invited to apply for an initial ten-year lease, which will be advertised this weekend.
Rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead said: “It’s crucial that we do all we can to introduce new farmers to an industry which is vital to Scotland’s economy.
“We must ensure that we can attract fresh talent and ideas to continue the great work which already goes on in the sector.
“It is a great opportunity for a new farmer to gain valuable experience managing their own farm business before moving on to bigger and better things at the end of their lease period.”
Balrobert Farm is about four miles south of Inverness. Applicants must be new entrants to farming looking to secure a foothold in agriculture. Applications from existing farm businesses will not be considered.
Hugh Maclean, of letting agents Bell Ingram, said: “The Scottish Government is offering new entrants to farming a unique opportunity to get them started on their agricultural career path.
“They hope to encourage a new generation into the farming industry by providing much sought-after, affordable, small-scale land units.”
Bob Carruth, of NFU Scotland, said: “These starter farms are crucial in helping young people who see their future in the industry and want to become part of the next generation within the sector.
“We are seeing a huge amount of interest in people taking courses at college and university, and this provides an avenue for those wishing to run their own business to get into the industry.
“There is currently very limited land available, so these starter farms give young farmers and their families the foothold they need.”
The cost of the tenancy is part of the tender process and applicants should submit their proposals, including what they are willing to pay, as part of a business plan.