Balcaskie Estate: Creating livelihood opportunities
The Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement outlines the importance of creating a more diverse pattern of land ownership, management and use in Scotland. Balcaskie Estate in the East Neuk of Fife recognises this and is committed to ‘diversity of opportunity’. It is a modern, working estate owned by the Anstruther family and covers 1,800 ha of land covering coastline to hills and their commitment has seen the estate transform over the last decade.
East Neuk attracts millions of visitors every year. This brings investment into the area however this reliance can also have its challenges including seasonal work, unaffordable housing and an ageing population. The landowners in East Neuk are currently working in partnership with communities and wider stakeholders through the East Neuk Community Action Plan (ENCAP) process to address these identified challenges and deliver joint solutions. This process has shaped the approach taken by Toby Anstruther and his team at Balcaskie which aims to enable people to live and work in the area year-round. Opportunities have been created through different means and a passion for sustainable local food has been central to this. Toby co-founded Food from Fife recognising the quality of the produce in Fife. The network focuses on supporting Fife’s food and drink producers, creating new opportunities and strengthening local food chains and markets.
A commitment to supporting small producers led to the creation of Bowhouse in 2016. Based on the outskirts of St Monans, Bowhouse is a physical, making and gathering space consisting of farm plots, small production units and regular market weekends. It is now home to eight small producers, over 20 regular local market traders and attracts around 5000 visitors each market weekend. Balcaskie has also created eight studio spaces for makers and small creative businesses at Comielaw Steadings. The estate itself produces high quality food and is a mixture of let farms and in-hand farming operations covering a wide variety of land types. Conversion to organic and wild farming began in 2016 and continues to develop. The estate is also home to a private nursery school and pub/restaurant Kinneuchar Inn and has plans to create more opportunities for people to live and work on the estate. Balcaskie Estate currently hosts 87 jobs on the estate, making them along with their East Neuk Estates partners, one of the biggest supporters of employment in Fife’s East Neuk.
Sharing the learning
• Practice genuine community engagement – you cannot create long-term change individually. Work with and understand your community, build on what exists (taking an asset-based approach) and be open, transparent and approachable (continually test ideas through conversation.)
• Take an enabling approach and focus on removing barriers for businesses, traders, producers and communities
• The Estate would like to see more choice in tenure and cheaper legal costs to make it easier to support starter businesses
• Long-term commitment, an appetite for risk and patient capital are essential – be confident in the vision and have ‘stubborn optimism.’
Balcaskie is on a journey of long-term change and is committed to cultivating and caring for the natural environment, nurturing local businesses, and supporting their local community. The Anstruther family’s enabling approach ensures that flexibility and openness are built into and will continue to be part of the process.
Find Out More
For more information, please contact:
Balcaskie Estate Office
Easter Kellie Farm
Good Practice Team
Scottish Land Commission
Tel: 01463 423300