This blog is driven by conservation, but I was drawn to farming after being involved in several projects which linked agriculture and wildlife. Traditional mixed farming has fallen off the radar in Britain over the last thirty years, but small and sustainable agriculture can be at the heart of conservation, particularly in wilder upland areas like Galloway where the landscape is still rough around the edges. Over the last three years, agriculture has become a central theme of this blog and my work.
I was born and brought up in Galloway: it was always obvious that galloway cattle should be the focus of my work, but I was offered the chance to take a fresh perspective on an ancient breed. Riggit galloways are an extraordinary throwback to eighteenth Century cattle, and the stubby, barrel-bellied animals pre-date most modern breeds. They were selectively bred out of existence by the Victorians, but a series of genetic flukes have led to a resurgence since the 1990s.
With distinctive markings and large personalities, riggits fit right back into modern Galloway as if they had never been away. These animals are slowly increasing their popularity across the world, but it’s important to me that they should prosper here at their point of origin. Riggits are still extremely marginal and could scarcely exist without a steady influx of blood from other native galloway livestock, but the animals have significant relevance for the future of farming. Slow grown and finished on grass, riggits also appeal to my other great passion in life: food.
This project has grown beyond all expectations, but I can now work towards a day when I will be able to produce some extraordinarily fine beef. This blog now runs alongside my farming project, bringing conservation, land management and good food together under one roof. These themes make for logical bedfellows, and it makes sense that black grouse, curlews and t-bone steaks should be represented together as one.