In person: John Sinclair, farmer

SOME people spend a lifetime working out what they want to do, traipsing from one end of the globe to the other in search of the perfect job or lifestyle. Then there are those like John Sinclair, of West Craigie Farm in South Queensferry, who have always known exactly where they were heading and can see the potential for success right on their own doorstep.

A fourth generation farmer, Sinclair and his wife Kirsteen have turned a struggling dairy and beef farm into a thriving fruit growing business with a farm shop and cafe that draws customers from the whole of the Lothians, Fife and beyond and has a burgeoning online operation to boot.

Beginning as a small farm shop with a selection of jams, it is now a large deli with a range of Scottish produce from artisanal cheeses to venison, oatcakes and garlic, plus an onsite butcher and cafe stacked high with home baking. Then there are the strawberries that are available six months of the year, making it the ideal place to go for produce grown in our own backyard.

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"I always wanted to farm and made up my mind in primary one," says Sinclair. "Young boys and tractors just go together so I was an easy job for the careers staff at school," he says.

Given that Sinclair is the fourth generation to grow up on a farm, it was no surprise that he wanted to join the family firm. Originally a dairy farm, with beef and sheep, his father diversified into soft fruit in the 1980s when times were hard for farmers and many went to the wall.

"Dad sowed the seeds to get things growing on the farm because livestock and cereal weren't generating enough income. He was the one who developed the soft fruit side and saw the potential. The farm is only 250 acres and was too small to justify the rent on livestock and cereal alone."

Never one to let the grass grow under his feet, Sinclair senior decided the answer lay in raspberries and strawberries and a farm shop was set up in 1988 to sell soft fruit. Sinclair's mother's jams and chutneys were a huge hit and are still popular in the new shop and cafe that draw in customers by the carload every weekend as buyers eschew the supermarket and choose to shop local for produce that doesn't involve airmiles or pesticides.

Sinclair completed an HND in agriculture and started a contracting business doing work on other farms but when his father died in 1995 and he tried running both the contracting business and the fruit farm together, he discovered there was more potential in the latter. So he and Kirsteen took the decision to set up a cafe and expand the shop and now employ 25 regular staff that swell to 65 in summer.

"Looking back, Dad was probably trying to tell me that but he was great for letting you learn from your mistakes. He always diversified and said if something is not working, change it and move on. A lot of farmers are very bad for sticking with the same thing, but to survive we have to move with the times. I'm not a guy that likes standing still either and like to keep moving things around – to the frustration of the staff at times."

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Managed by Kirsteen, the shop has a huge range of cheeses, from Red Ainster to the popular Dunsyre Blue and home baking such as quiches and cakes. Innovation is the order of the day there too, with the new haggis and neep sausages going with a bang and tickets for a St Andrew's evening butchery demo and dinner on 30 November selling fast.

"The products are all fresh and local and very Scottish and it's unusual to be able to get food with such a clear provenance. It's easy to buy stuff that's maybe packed in Scotland but to find out how it's grown and meet the guy that's produced the meat and the lamb is something else. A year ago we expanded the shop and cafe and introduced the butchery counter which adds more theatre to the shop."

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The Sinclairs are not just devoting their efforts to providing the nation with its five a day, as the farm also makes a contribution to the moral fibre of the nation by linking up with the criminal justice system in providing work placements for offenders.

"We'd really like to expand this aspect of the farm as it's great to see people coming in and benefiting from it. A lot of people with minor offences haven't had a job so it's basic things like having to be here on time, learning about the soil and planting seeds from scratch. It's great when you get chatting to them and we'd like to get more funding from the national lottery so we can do more of that."

It's not just offenders who work on the farm, though, as Sinclair's son George, 12, and daughter Sophie, 13, work for their pocket money there too. As they say in farming circles, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, and it looks as though West Craigie is already working its magic on the next generation.

• West Craigie Farm, South Queensferry, Edinburgh (0131-319 1048,