Farmer hopes to provide ‘blueprint’ for farm diversification
A Scottish farming family hope to provide a ‘blueprint’ to farm diversification to help others to diversify into the events sector amid an uncertain future for the industry.
The Imrie family, who have worked on Hillhead Farm in Torrance, East Dunbartonshire, for more than 100 years, have invested over £50,000 in a new country wedding venue at the heart of their operation. Eldest son Matt, who launched Hillhead Farm Events alongside his five brothers and sisters, hopes the investment will help safeguard the future of the farm for generations to come.
It comes as high inflation, a new post Brexit subsidy scheme and higher input costs puts extra pressure on those who work the land across the UK.
Matt believes the small, family run farm could struggle if they fail to find alternative ways to generate cash flow through farm diversification.
“Farming families across the country are going through a tough time right now,” he said, “The industry is facing an unsettling future, which means farmers need to look at new ways of safeguarding their land and keep the cash flowing in.
“I truly believe that diversifying is the best way for small family farms to stay afloat, especially those who have been in business for generations and generations. To keep going, you have to be open to change and adapt to what works. If we are successful in this venture – and I truly believe we will be – then I absolutely believe we can provide a blueprint to help transform the industry on a national scale.”
Matt, 29, and younger sibling Ben, 24, have invested a 25% stake in the business, while sisters Tabatha, 20, Keziah, 17, Jessica, 26 and Naomi, 30, have each taken on 12%.
The land is currently owned and operated by the siblings and their parents, Antoinette and John Imrie.
“As a family, we’re taking a huge risk,” Matt continued. “All six of us are involved as a means to benefit everybody. Our parents haven’t invested, mainly to protect their assets. We plan on paying them an incredibly inflated rent for the ground that we operate on as our contribution to help keep the family farm running.
“This isn’t just a passion project for me and my siblings – it’s giving our parents a sense of security too. Succession is really important to our family, and we want to ensure our parents can comfortably pass the reins over to us and we can do the same for the next generation. That being said, I wouldn’t want to take on this project with anyone else. My siblings are my best friends. The farm means so much to us all – it’s part of our livelihoods and we want to share that passion and love with as many people as possible.
“This is such a special project which my family and I have poured our hearts into for the past decade. We can’t wait to share it with everyone.”
Set in 500 acres of secluded countryside to the north of Glasgow, the new multipurpose events space at Hillhead Farm will provide the backdrop for a ‘fairytale country wedding’, despite its location just 2.5 miles east of Milngavie.
Work on installing a magnificent 230 sq metre timber-frame dome structure at the heart of the farm will begin this weekend, with bookings for next year’s summer season set to open at the end of the month.
Matt added: “We live in one of the most beautiful parts of the world. During the summer months, when the cows and sheep are grazing on the grass and the hay bales are spread out in the distance, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were in the Highlands. It’s that feeling of seclusion that means our guests will be able to enjoy complete autonomy for their wedding while still being able to see the city centre. It’s a truly unique, fairytale venue that’s completely different to anything I have ever seen before.”
The venue will be put through its paces for the first time in less than a fortnight, when Matt’s sister Jessica gets married to her fiancé, James Bedford, on June 25.
“Jess has always wanted to get married on the farm,” Matt continued. “It’s going to be a great opportunity for us to see how the venue operates and gives us plenty of time to make any tweaks before we start taking bookings. That being said, if we don’t get it right for Jess’ big day, I don’t think any of us will make it past the 25th!”
The multi-purpose events venue will be available to rent on a one or two day basis from April to September each year, operating around the winter farming cycle and yearly lambing period.
The dome will hold up to 100 day and 150 evenings guests, with plans also in place to build six luxury on-site accommodation pods later this year.