Sisters From Bigton Are Britain’s Farming Heroes

by Alastair Hamilton -

Two young women who took over the family farm following the death of their father in an accident have picked up the BBC Countryfile Farming Heroes Award.

Aimee and Kirsty Budge run Bigton Farm, situated on the west coast of Shetland’s south mainland. The area is known for its spectacular scenery and St Ninian’s Isle forms part of the farm.

From an agricultural point of view, the land is some of the best in Shetland. Most of the farm is in permanent pasture and intensive grassland. But crops are grown, too, and Bigton is one of only a few units in Shetland that can produce barley, typically around 60 tonnes annually. The sisters also breed Shetland cross Cheviot sheep and Saler cross Shorthorn cattle.

the land is some of the best in Shetland

Aimee and Kirsty were just 17 and 21 when, in 2014, their 46 year old father died in a tractor accident. They immediately stepped up to take on the business, which has been in the family for seven generations, and have continued to operate it successfully.

That’s not all, though: they’ve also taken on the responsibility of running what is Scotland’s most northerly monitor farm. Monitor farms form a farmer-led network, established as part of a three-year programme, that’s committed to helping improve productivity and profitability. Each monitor farm is linked to a local group of other farmers who become involved in the planning of the farm’s work.

It’s an idea adopted from New Zealand and the programme aims to ensure that new ideas are tested and best practice is disseminated in the local farming community. The costs of the programme are assisted through the Scottish Rural Development Programme’s Knowledge Transfer and Innovation Fund. Kirsty and Aimee host regular meetings of the local group and, as Kirsty explained to BBC Radio Shetland, an innovative approach is very much in line with the family tradition. There’s much more information about the Shetland monitor farm here.

an innovative approach is very much in line with the family tradition

The sisters received the accolade at the BBC Food and Farming Awards ceremony, held in Bristol on 13 June, after their remarkable story won the admiration of the BBC Countryfile audience. Handing over their certificate, Countryfile presenter and farmer, Adam Henson, said: "Kirsty and Aimee have not just stepped into the shoes of their father, they are pioneering farming in Shetland and if I could hire them I would."

The sisters’ mother, Helen, was understandably very proud of them. She told the BBC: "I will never ever believe how much they have been able, in the absolute depth of tragedy, to step up. They have done it for their dad."

The entire Shetland community will echo those thoughts and we send our congratulations and very best wishes for the future.

They have done it for their dad