By Deborah LeggateMay 25th 2010

The Farmers Club Visit Shetland

50 members of the London-based Farmers Club are in Shetland this week for a whistle-stop tour of the islands' land and sea-based farming activities. The fact finding mission includes a packed programme of visits where members can find out more about Shetland farming techniques, and may provide opportunities to have Shetland produce showcased on the Club's menu in the future.

The four-day visit will include: presentations by Michael Laurenson of Blueshell Mussels and NAFC Marine Centre director Professor David Gray; a tour of Ronnie Eunson and Jim Budge's farms; a trip to Bressay and a visit to Shetland Catch and Grieg Seafood Hjaltland UK Ltd.

The guests will also attend a Civic Reception at Lerwick Town Hall and will learn more about Shetland's agriculture and seafood sectors from Ronnie Eunson and John Goodlad at an event in the Lerwick Hotel.

Commenting on why the Club decided to visit Shetland and what they hope to gain from the tour, chair Nicki Quayle said: "Each year the chairman of the Farmers Club takes the Club on a fact finding tour, sometimes abroad but mainly in the UK. Peter Jackson, a vice president of the Club, has had a long association with the Shetland fishing industry through his family connections with LHD. Our only Club member in Shetland is John Goodlad, who is chairman of Shetland Catch, so it made sense to me to visit the UK's most northerly group of islands.

"Whilst we are keen to discover more about aquaculture and the vital role it plays in Shetland's economy, we also wish to learn more about the agriculture perspective. In particular, crofting, the legendary sheep and wool, as well as the cattle, especially as it is the Shetland Herdbook Cattle Society's centenary year. Shetland's crofters have had a challenging history and it will be interesting to discover how more active land use and shared management are being encouraged and how that impacts on the rural communities.

"Added to that, Shetland has such a fascinating history and close Scandinavian links. We wish to experience the culture, music, wildlife and birds set in this amazing scenery and, of course, to sample the delights of your produce, seafood, lamb and beef.

"We are all affected by the rules and regulations imposed by the EU and with the CAP reform looming we look forward to debating and learning from each other how best to tackle the issues that are facing the aquaculture and agriculture industries.

"I would particularly like to thank Ruth Henderson and Ronnie Eunson for helping us put together an extremely interesting visit for our members - I am just sorry we couldn't stay longer and visit some of the other islands.

"We are delighted to be here and have been overwhelmed by the warm welcome we have received in this beautiful part of the world."

The Farmers Club has a membership of some 5,500 who are either directly involved in farming or the associated industries. The membership is drawn from right across the United Kingdom and overseas. The Club was formed in 1842 and has its base in London.