I am a pupil in my second year of Sgoil Lionacleit’s crofting course, studying for the Intermediate 2 qualification. I was asked to give a speech at the Future of Crofting conference held in Stornoway about my own croft and crofting experiences.
I stay on our small family croft out in the heart of Lochboisdale, South Uist. The croft came into the family only a couple of years ago.
The first year of our crofting course coincided very well with our own croft development, as at that time we were able to start spending money and time on the croft which had suffered from neglect and had not been worked for over forty years.
The course has not only taught me the basics of crofting such as animal husbandry, growing crops, dry stone walling, fencing and the history of crofting. It has also put me in contact with many people who are always willing to help me and given me the confidence to go and work on other local crofts.
We have many plans for the croft, some of which will take place this year and some of which are already happening.
We keep 14 hens. I sell the eggs to friends and family and we are increasing the numbers next month. Last summer I hatched some duck eggs and in March we are getting a couple of weaners to clear poor land and to fatten up for the freezer. We are developing the vegetable garden and building a fruit cage. In October last year I bought my first half dozen hoggs with more to follow. My latest plan is to keep turkeys to fatten up in time for Christmas.
Once I leave school I am going to agricultural college. Whilst I am away, I will do an apprenticeship in butchery and eventually I hope to make a living from crofting, butchering my own produce for sale. For additional income I will do fencing and dry stone walling.
There are now many opportunities for young crofters within our islands. There is the opportunity to sell produce locally and the possibility to export the ‘Uist’ brand. And anyone who does go away to agricultural college and returns home will be able to offer assistance to other crofters.
I am glad to say that crofting means a lot to me as it is, and over the next few years it will be my life.