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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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