A Fife estate and local farmer are to strike a new tenancy arrangement that celebrates almost a century-long partnership between two families.
Allan Wilson, of South Falfield, will shortly be added to the lease currently held by his father Hugh.
The move underpins a long-standing relationship between the Wilsons and the Baxter family, proprietors of Gilston Estate of which the 270-acre mixed farm forms part.
The relationship between the families began in the 1920s when the farm was rented by the Baxters to the Wilsons by the respective grandfathers of current Gilston owner Edward Baxter and South Falfield farmer Hugh Wilson.
In the 1970s Edward Baxter and Hugh Wilson’s respective fathers invested heavily in the farm, with new buildings and drainage works.
After their respective fathers died, Edward and Hugh have worked closely together to continue the families’ fruitful relationship.
In 1995 Edward resumed part of the farm (five acres) for a bog, now full of snipe and rare waders which their fathers had spent substantial money draining and added 20 acres of dry ground which had previously been farmed in-hand by the estate.
In 2010 Edward and Hugh jointly bought a house in the next door village for Allan, Hugh’s son, who at that time was living in a caravan on the farm.
Now, Allan and his parents have swapped houses his parents have gone to the village and Allan is living in the farmhouse.
In order to make that transition as smooth as possible, both families have together invested in the farmhouse, including the installation of a new heating system and new bathroom.
With Hugh still devoting time to the running of the farm, money was also spent creating a comfortable office beside the house where farm administration can be handled.
The new tenancy arrangement coincides with the launch of a new campaign by Scottish Land & Estates, of which Gilston Estate is a member.
‘Helping it Happen’ is designed to highlight how landowners and estates can play a key role in delivering benefit to rural Scotland (see panel below).
The campaign is being launched to demonstrate that estates are committed to enabling local communities and businesses across a range of sectors including tourism and leisure, food and drink, energy, agriculture, housing and the environment to meet their objectives.
Edward Baxter, owner of Gilston Estate, said: “The long-standing relationship between the Wilson and Baxter families is obviously a source of pride for Hugh, Allan and myself but, more than that, it is an association that pays dividends for all of us because it works so well.
“Throughout my long-standing relationship with Hugh, both of us have shared a common goal of wanting to get on with business and maximise the potential from the resources we have available.
“Every time we have a decision to make for the future, cooperation between us inevitably provides the best results.
“There have undoubtedly been occasions when one of us has had to approach the other with an issue that needs to be addressed but, through conversation, I don’t think we’ve ever failed to come up with a suitable solution. We both use third parties to keep us right on the rent as that can otherwise be a bone of contention.
“The partnership is not built on an ‘owner versus tenant’ approach, as is so often painted by some. Although we have different roles and interests, it is instead built upon mutual respect of each other as rural businessmen.
“As the owner of an estate business, I obviously want it to be a success, but I believe I can achieve even more by helping to enable success for others, too.
“The partnership between the families is nearly a century old, and Allan’s move into the farmhouse and on to the lease is the next step in extending that. Together, the three of us have made further improvements to the farm as Allan has got more involved and, as a young man in his thirties, he can conceivably have a 30-year career ahead of him on the farm.
“I highly value both my business relationship and friendship with Hugh and Allan, and I hope his involvement in running the farm will extend our partnership for decades to come.
“We are currently planning how the farm will develop over the next few years, and I am delighted that we are embarking on this process together.”
Allan Wilson, who will soon be added to the lease of South Falfield Farm, said: “I am obviously pleased to be taking on further responsibility with the lease, and I’m looking forward to the hard work ahead in the months and years to come.
“It is good to know, however, that this effort will be built on the solid relationship we enjoy with Edward.
“The productive nature of the partnership between the Wilsons and the Baxters over the years is clear to see, and I hope I can play my part in further enhancing that.
“On a personal level, Edward has been supportive to me as I moved from the farm into the village and then back to the farmhouse.
“This has given me the stability required as I moved forward with my career on the farm and I hope that, as my work at South Falfield develops, I can build our relationship even further to our collective benefit.”
David Johnstone, chairman of Scottish Land & Estates, said that the case of the Baxters and Wilsons working in collaboration provided the perfect example of what can be achieved through partnership between landowners and communities.
He said: “People who have the interests of rural Scotland at heart know that the best way to achieve vibrant and successful communities is to work together towards common goals.
“Landowners and estates are often stereotyped as detached and remote from communities, and it is important that we strive to change that perception and show what the reality and diversity is on the ground. By showcasing this, we can make it clear that we are people who you can work with and achieve things together.
“Helping it Happen summarises exactly how estates businesses would like to be more widely recognised.
“It is up to landowners to send out a strong signal that they are willing partners and help break down some of the perceived barriers between them and communities.”