Farming: Rural hub offers 'one-stop' opportunity for farmers

A RURAL hub has been established in Stirling following an expansion of facilities at the Caledonian Mart site at Millhall. The new Agri Business Centre, which was officially opened yesterday, sees a number of land-based organisations coming together.

In addition to hosting offices for NFU Mutual and agricultural supply company Harbro, the Scottish Agricultural College has moved from its long-term base at Innovation Park at Stirling University.

There it was staffed by two agricultural consultants and one conservation consultant. The new, larger, purpose-built facility is now home to a senior agricultural consultant and area manager, two agricultural consultants, one conservation consultant, a livestock business specialist and an administrator.

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According to Colin MacPhail, senior consultant and area manager, the new arrangement will provide far better consultancy coverage in the Stirling area.

"It will allow us to increase the range of technical services we can provide and an opportunity to grow the business in line with the SAC business plan," he said. "Having NFU and Harbro on site adds to the benefits available and has created an agricultural business centre to meet the needs of local farmers"

The area covered by the SAC Stirling office covers West Dunbartonshire, Stirlingshire, Falkirk and Clackmannanshire. In delivering a comprehensive service to subscribers and rural business clients, staff give advice on a range of different farming and rural business topics. SAC's farm business consultants complete 250 single farm payment applications for farming clients, delivering 9.2 million in EU farming support each year. They also process many applications for land managers seeking entry to government environmental, rural development and diversification schemes.

Colin MacPhail, Robin Mair and Stephen Whiteford have widespread industry knowledge and back grounds in business management, crops, dairy, beef, sheep and red meat industry expertise. Conservation consultant Sandra Stewart provides conservation advice often delivered through Scottish Government funded meetings, seminars and on farm environmental awareness talks. Gavin Dick has extensive experience in farm and business management and supplies rural business and specialist livestock consultancy.

John Broadfoot, manager at Caledonian Marts, said it had been the aim of the company to develop the site as a "one-stop shop" for the leading agricultural business and rural retail centre in central Scotland.They had added almost 10,000sq ft to their existing premises , some being used as additional lairage linked to the market and the rest as offices for the rural businesses.

Emma Stuart, managing director of Main Design and Build, said her company's many years of experience in the construction of agricultural buildings helped put them in a unique position to deliver the scale and type of buildings required "to meet the Mart's needs now and in the future".