Now Showing in Scotland

The doors to our latest We Feed The UK exhibition are open at Street Level Photoworks in Glasgow until 30 June! Stunning photography by Sophie Gerrard celebrates the women producing nature-friendly food for Scotland.

We’re telling this story because sons inherit Scottish farms 85% of the time, yet over half of the UK’s family farm workers are women. The Scottish government’s own Women in Agriculture Taskforce concluded that their contribution can be “undervalued, downplayed or simply unseen”. The time is ripe to start cultivating equality and Sophie has captured two ground-breaking examples:

Lisa Houston co-founded Lauriston Farm, a 100-acre site near Edinburgh run by a majority-women workers cooperative, as a local response to the lack of affordable, healthy food.

Over the hills, Nikki Yoxall of Grampian Graziers collaborates with native cattle to restore the species-rich, carbon-sequestering pasture in decline across the Cairngorms.

The launch, on Saturday 27 April, featured a live performance of Hot Poet Iona Lee‘s beautiful verse, The Seed Kist, which we commissioned to celebrate Lauriston Farm. You can read her words alongside Sophie’s photography here.

THROUGH SOPHIE’S EYES

Sophie captured her conversations with Nikki and Lisa in this text to accompany the exhibition…

Nikki Yoxall is a regenerative farmer living in North East
Scotland in the foothills of the Grampian Mountains,
between the hills and the sea. She runs her farm business
utilising agroforestry and holistic planned grazing; restoring
soils, wildlife and plants with her herd, via Grampian
Graziers
(#theweemob). She works for Pasture for Life and is
also undertaking a PhD to explore the role of nature
connectedness in farmer decision making.

“As we move the cattle across the landscape their grazing
encourages and stimulates the grass to regrow which then
stimulates the root to exude even more nutrients and carbon.
In order for ecosystems to function and to cycle effectively
they need to be nudged along by all of the component parts
and large herbivores are one of those component parts.

“Our statement of purpose is to enable diversity and
abundance to nourish our community which I guess is a very
succinct way of saying I really like there being lots of plants,
lots of wildlife and I like feeding people. This job is the best of
both worlds, combining my love of producing food and
people frequently tell us that our beef is the best they’ve ever
eaten, with being part of holistic and crucial landscape
restoration. The whole experience is incredibly connecting
and grounding.

“Part of my work is to work with other farmers, guiding,
facilitating & supporting them to think about their landscapes
differently and in a more balanced way.
I really enjoy sharing what we do here. I feel my teaching
background influences my desire to share. Talking and
connecting with people is such an important thing.
Representation is important too. There’s a lot of people who
get to speak on behalf of agriculture who don’t think this
way, and yet there are lots of people who do think this way.
Women also often don’t get represented and although that is
changing I do feel there’s always space, particularly for
young women to have the opportunity to say their piece.
Farmers often get held accountable, not by scientists, but by
the media and the public, for climate change, the
biodiversity crisis, the human health crisis, they’re expected
to carry the weight of the world on their shoulders and I think
it’s really important that we show people that there’s stuff
happening and they can be part of that.

“As new entrants we don’t have a farm or a herd to inherit nor
are we tied to a specific way of working, and that is
incredibly freeing. This is the first time we’ve done it, we’re
learning as we go. Obviously if you inherit a farm there is a
huge privilege and responsibility with that and I admire
farmers who take on the mantle from their forebears. I think
there’s probably loads of other people out there who are
doing it for the first time who might feel alone. So by sharing
what we do with them and with non-farmers, it just feels very
positive.”

Lisa Houston is one of the driving forces and co-founders
of Lauriston Agroecology Farm, a 100 acre site run by a
workers co-operative that is focused on food growing,
biodiversity, and community. When it started in 2021 it was
the largest urban farm in Scotland.

“We are wedged between one of the poorest areas of
Scotland and one of the wealthiest areas of Scotland.
Groups of at least 3 neighbourhood households, or
organisations working in the local area with local people
can apply for a community allotment. We’ve got a Ukrainian
group, a Polish group, a group from Hong Kong, a group
from South Africa. Then we’ve got neighbours from mixed
backgrounds. We’ve got people from Ecuador, people from
France and it’s a really nice mixture which means you’ve got
very diverse and international crops. It’s cool seeing the
exchange between people when they ask what they’re
growing.

“The community orchard has been designed and planted by
the local community. The north field is devoted to wetland
wildlife habitat specifically for coastal migrating wading
birds and in the summer highland cattle will keep the grass
the right height.

“We’ve done lots of stuff for biodiversity, we’ve planted 900
metres of double hedgerow, and about 12500 trees in the
last 18 months and put in ponds for amphibian life. We have
20 acres of deer fenced area for our market garden and
food production from which we did 50 veg boxes last year
and we have a veg stall here every Thursday. We’re also
doing agro-forestry, growing wheat and other indigenous
heritage seeds.

“What we are doing is at one level so simple and I think for
most of us working here, it’s just common sense. People need
to know where their food comes from, they need to
understand nature, the world of wildlife that we share this
earth with and now more than ever we all need to be getting
a chance to engage with the world in a way that feels like
we are working with nature rather than against us. We need
community resilience and that comes from people getting
together and doing stuff like growing food, planting trees,
sharing meals and cups of tea, saving seeds. Like I said it
seems like a very simple thing to me, but I recognise that it’s
also for some people quite revolutionary. For me personally,
I just like to be outside, doing physical work and chatting
with people, that feels natural to me.”

Images of the exhibition at Street Level Photoworks

Images of the Regenerative Conversation panel event at Street Level Photoworks

©Tiu Makkonen, courtesy of Street Level Photoworks

Cultivating Equality: Regenrative Conversations featured Nikki Yoxall from Grampian Graziers, Lisa Houston from Lauriston Farm, Sinéad Fortune, Scotland Coordinator for the Seed Sovereignty Programme, and photographer Sophie Gerrard. Chaired by Katie Revell , co-producer of Farmerama Radio.