Wark Farm is a 200 acre mixed farm in the foothills of the eastern edge of the Cairngorm mountain range. Sitting at about 1,000ft (330m) it is an upland cattle and sheep farm, registered organic with the Soil Association since 2006. It is home to a pedigree breeding herd of Belted Galloway cattle and flocks of pure bred pedigree Hebridean sheep and Hebridean sheep crossed with Meatlinc tups.
The essence of the farm is to produce high quality meat for sale locally through our own on-site butchery in a way which promotes the highest standards of animal welfare and is as ecologically sustainable as we can manage. Energy for the farm, butchery and houses is supplied from a bio-fuel boiler for heating and hot water and a solar PV system for electricity. Alongside the meat sales, the wool from the sheep flock is used to make a range of organic textiles, including scarves and throws.
There are also various ways to come and enjoy being at Wark Farm; we have a beautiful and comfortable holiday cottage, the Hayloft, located in a part of the traditional farm steading; we offer Food and Farm Experience Days and are a host farm for WWOOF giving the opportunity for people to come and stay/work at the farm for short periods. From time to time we also have farm walks and talks for customers to come and see the farm and learn more of what we do.
The farm has been registered as organic for nine years and has had full organic certification for seven years. These means that we comply with EU and UK standards for organic farming in addition to the enhanced standards that are required to be Soil Association certified. We are audited annually to ensure compliance with these standards.
To farm organically means that we seek to work with the farm's natural systems to grow our crops and animals in a way that enhances the biological activity and fertility of the soils and vegetation with very few inputs from outside the farm. It aims to enhance the health of both the plants and animals so making them more resistant to pests, diseases and other sources of ill health. We use no artificial fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides or GM products. The fertility of the soils are raised using white and red clover (which capture nitrogen from the air) and the different crops and animal species are rotated around the farm to control diseases, such as parasitic worms and prevent weeds building up. Grass mixtures are more species diverse than in non-organic systems and we use perennial herbs (such as chicory and plantain) to make more soil minerals available to the animals, promoting better health.
Animal welfare standards are very high in organic systems, with the focus on providing the animals with plenty opportunity to express their natural behaviours and to promote health rather than having to treat when a problem occurs. We do use modern veterinary medicines should our animals become sick, although there are restrictions on some groups of medicines, the frequency with which they may be used and on the use of purely preventative use of medication.
Wildlife & Conservation
The farm sits at the head of a broad valley and is source to a tributary of the river Don. While there are some forestry plantations on the edge of the farm, it is essentially an open landscape and our conservation efforts have focused on creating habitats to encourage those species that use these wide spaces. The low lying floor of the valley is home to an area of created wetland containing ponds and splashes where the water table is naturally high. This attracts wading birds such as curlew, lapwing and snipe along with birds such as reed buntings, mallard and teal. The larger ponds attract visits from ospreys in the summer.
On the upper slopes and higher ground of the valley, new hedges are encouraging yellowhammers and flocks of finches, while the fenced off rough margins along the hedges and ditches provide feeding opportunities for tawny and barn owls as well as kestrels, sparrow hawks and buzzards. Four extensive areas of wildflower meadows have been sown and are managed to encourage the spread and flowering of a wide range of native species which also benefit a range of insects and small mammals. We also have a thriving population of skylarks which can be heard singing in most months of the year, but especially in the spring. Roe deer and badgers can also be seen in areas of the farm. In addition to the areas specifically managed for wildlife, farming organically has been proven to support a greater abundance and diversity of wildlife and we also manage our grasslands to encourage wildlife by restricting the grazing and cutting of grass at certain times to protect nesting birds.