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Ross Mitchell, Castleton Farm, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

Ross Mitchell runs Castleton Farm near Laurencekirk in Aberdeenshire, with his parents and wife Anna. Castleton Farm is a 710 acre family run business devoted to fruit production growing strawberries, raspberries, cherries and blueberries, supplying leading supermarket chains such as Tesco and Marks & Spencer. There is also a thriving Farm Shop and Café selling home grown fruit and locally sourced produce. Ross tells us about why he got involved with Open Farm Sunday for the first time last year and shares some of his personal top tips for a successful event…

710 acre fruit farm | Aberdeenshire, Scotland

2014 was the first year we had ever con­sid­ered open­ing the farm for Open Farm Sun­day. It seemed a good time — we had gained our LEAF Mar­que cer­tifi­cate and won The Roy­al North­ern Agri­cul­tur­al Soci­ety Best Farm­ing Award so, we felt open­ing the farm would be a great oppor­tu­ni­ty to show the pub­lic what we were about.

It is fair to say that some of my team were scep­ti­cal about the task in hand – after all, we are farm­ers not pub­lic speak­ers! We spoke with the Scot­tish Region­al Co-ordi­na­tor which gave us an idea about what Open Farm Sun­day would involve and also inspired us! It real­ly helped answer some of our ques­tions and get us all moti­vat­ed. Our main issue was how to make soft fruit as warm and snug­gly as cows, sheep and lla­mas so that chil­dren (and adults!) would engage. Thank­ful­ly, the team did lots of brain storm­ing after read­ing the infor­ma­tion LEAF sent to us and on the web­site, and plans were quick­ly hatched. Although, like most farm­ers, I don’t like being inside – there is always some­thing more inter­est­ing to do out­side! – we did make sure that we had reg­u­lar meet­ings about our Open Farm Sun­day event and every­one on the team would bring some­thing new each time. On the day itself, just be enthu­si­as­tic, help­ful and infor­ma­tive. Not every­thing is going to go as you planned but heh, if you can laugh with your vis­i­tors at hav­ing to do a 3 point turn with a trac­tor and trail­er as you missed the gate, then that’s half the bat­tle! Above all enjoy your­self and look for­ward to the pint at 5pm!

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