Lucy Beattie first engaged with Community Learning on her farm at Leckmelm Estate in 2007 when Ullapool High School approached her to engage in a partnership project to deliver a Rural Skills SVQ. This has grown over the last 7 years and now Lucy runs it for the West Highland College as part of the schools link programme. She runs 300 head of sheep, a small native cattle herd and Christmas turkeys as well as 15 let houses and a 600 acre woodland.
The school’s Additional Support for Learning Department approached the Estate and asked if they could bring pupils to work side by side with the Rural Skills learners on the Farm. The students were able to engage in the Scottish Vocational Qualification modules as well as achieve John Muir awards. This interaction worked well and inspired Lucy to offer a weekly placement to a man who had previously attended the farm via Ullapool High School support for learning department.
This man is now in his early twenties and has attended a twice weekly work placement with his support worker at the farm and engages in all types of estate work from livestock husbandry - taking care of the 50 strong herd of turkeys and ensuring their bedding is clean and hygienic to forestry and logging, drystone walling and chimney sweeping.
The benefits of the placement to the service user are legion. He is able to live and work in his own community and offer valuable support to his community. He has become less depressed, is excited by his work on the farm and readily engages with the other workers as part of the team. His verbal skills have improved markedly. He has also used this experience to work on a horticultural project at home where he aims to grow produce for sale to a local pop up cafe.
The placement is of direct value to the Estate and this is in part due to the proactive skills of the support worker, whose ability to engage on this pilot programme for self directed support, meant the client and Estate each derived benefit from them experience. Although the estate receives no remuneration for the placement the volunteer hours that are donated by the service user and his support worker their work was of practical value to the running of our business. Scottish Land and Estates (SLE) introduced us to the The NFU Centenary Fund which kindly donated protective clothing and equipment to the client and support worker together with a user friendly sheep handling crush which has helped the service user and the school children who attend the farm to engage fully with sheep handling operations.
SLE have supported Lucy to network with other social farming contacts and receive advice and encouragement as well as meeting with her local MSP.