North Scotland Gathering 2019
We are a very spread out area including most islands to the north and west of Scotland. Our gatherings need to be mobile from one year to the next to allow a different group of hosts, WWOOFers and interested locals to meet. Each year a different host offers to hold the gathering at their home. This year we were lucky enough to visit the long-established Kylerona Farm at Ardesier near Inverness.
Donny Macleod and Sheena have been farming here for over 30 years and Donnie’s family before that. The farm has been organic for a very long time and the box scheme running since 1998.
There is a lot to running such a successful small business and WWOOFers play an important part both for work and socially. That night the group were going to the Inverness Green Party Conference ceilidh, so we were lucky to get a visit in first. Some wwoofers return to the farm and gain employment, or just call back for a visit to see old friends.
On the day (Saturday October 12th) we met in the morning for a chat, some feedback on the use of the wwoof website and a tour of the farm. The offices contain maps, graphs, charts of work done and work to come. The shop and loading area are a complex arrangement to get all the orders out to a wide area. The 6 polytunnels have wonderful and creative growth. One greenhouse is used for seed germination. Donnie is very keen to save and germinate his own seed as much as possible and shared some of his techniques for getting the best plants from his seed. The new boiler house is wood-fired and warms all the properties on the farm. It is a family concern with different generations sharing work and play. We also got invited into the wwoofer’s accommodation, which is purpose-built with a central communal kitchen and sitting room. Donnie and Sheena live in the same building with just a few private rooms, although they are about to move to their own bungalow close by.
After that a filling bowl of soup (made by the WWOOFers on the farm –thanks) and shared breads and cheeses fuelled us for some gruelling work….. well not really as the suggested carrot harvesting had to be left out because the talking got so animated and interesting that we ran out of time! It seemed that old friendships and new were being forged, with hosts coming from Aberdeenshire, Skye and Ross-Shire. While there may still be struggles and confusion at times, the overwhelming feeling by the end of the day is that we have all gained a great deal from being members of wwoof. Who knows where we will meet next time, but the Highlands of Scotland are a very sociable community. If you didn’t come along this year it is worth making the effort next time, or maybe you can invite us to visit you?