The Story So Far, by Gina…
In late autumn of 2017, I was sat waiting for a buyer who was flying up from England to buy an old ruin, (cottage), I had been trying to sell. I had already had one offer on the ruin but this lady wanted it, was booked onto a flight and was going to be with me by midday.
Three years ago I decided to sell this ruin and start anew. I had been discussing with an old friend about leaving the UK and heading to the Pyrenees to create a sustainable vegan permaculture centre where we could teach, run courses and live as self-sufficiently as possible.
While waiting for this buyer to arrive, a nearby crofter came by, (who I’d known for years, as this is not far from where I used to live when I first moved to the Highlands in 1999). He stopped and we chatted for a while and he then told me that he was thinking of selling one of his crofts. He asked me if I knew of anyone that could be interested and did I want to see it while I wait for the buyer (who never did show up).
So I jumped into his rickety old Landrover and soon we entered the driveway of his nearby croft; all the while I was just wracking my brain to try and think of anyone who I knew who would buy it.
The rough track meandered down into an old woodland and he stopped and asked me to get out and follow him. We climbed a wee path and suddenly I was struck by such overwhelming beauty.
My eyes feasted on a series of waterfalls that fell over dark rock, nestled between moss and fern covered banks and ridges. The woodland each side of the waterfalls is old and mixed but heavily grazed. Below the trees of the steep banks next to the waterfalls a pungent rich undergrowth of ferns, blueberries and wild edible mushrooms grew: I was transfixed. Badaroch Croft also has two old stone cottages in need of renovation and two large barns. It comprises of eighty acres and a further one hundred + acres of common grazing.
We then left here and he drove me to another, equally diverse area of heathers, grassland, meadows and more mature trees and streams flowing down to the larger river below. Most of these areas were being extensively grazed by sheep and cattle and the damage of these ecosystems stood out to me, as I have been studying this damage in detail over the years of living in the Highlands. There is zero tree succession in intensive grazing and no new saplings ever survive the first year after germination.
I left the croft owner then, saying that I would think about who could buy it, I gave up on my buyer ever turning up and drove home where I phoned the guy who made me an offer on my cottage and accepted his offer.
For the next few days, Badarach croft was all I could think about. The price he was selling this Croft at, was so ridiculously cheap though; I took a gamble and made him an offer of every penny I would have, once my ruin was sold.
He turned it down.
I then spoke to my friend, (the one I was planning on going to the Pyrenees with), and said maybe all the things we had discussed were actually right here after all and would she consider Scotland instead. I described the beauty of Badaroch croft and sent her some photos.
My friend said that it sounded lovely, but was still set on the Pyrenees. She did, however, have some money that she could lend me, to be a part of it at some point in the future, but would never foresee herself moving to Scotland. So I went back to David and offered him a bit extra which was still well short. He said he would go away and think about it!
I would like to point out here that it is very difficult to buy a croft, as they are normally handed down from father to son and most have been in the same family since crofting started.
So for somebody like me, a Vegan English woman to be able to actually be in this position, is unheard of. I felt at this point, ‘oh my god what if this were to become the first ever vegan croft?’ I was overwhelmed with this thought, alongside the thought that another way to stop this horrific exploitation of animals, was to change farming itself. What if I could create an abundant example of plant protein production, an oasis of all things ecological, sustainable and vegan right, slap bang in the middle of the sheep industry? I think at this point, a slight, driven madness might have come over me, as it seemed like the whole of my life had bought me to this point.
Three days later he called and said YES!
There then was a lengthy vetting process and I had to write a brief outline of what I would do with it… ‘I just want to grow vegetables for the local villages, instead of them being shipped from god knows where. I want to run courses on how we can live sustainably. To repair the parts of this land that have been battered and used to rear sheep and cattle and grow fodder crops for those sheep and cattle. I want to create an example of local veganic food for local people, vegetables, plant proteins, nuts and fruits for wider use. I would like to re-wild parts of it to enhance and protect biodiversity.’
To create an example of how we could live and a centre for progressive ecological education has been a passion inside me since I was a young adult. I have been practising Veganic Permaculture for years and have created edible ecosystems in schools, run workshops and am passionate about growing food and nutrition.
The terrain at Badaroch is on a few levels. Near the road are several large grazing fields, fields used to cut hay and some rougher grazing where there were sheep and cows and also some scrub at a total here of around 25 acres. These areas I have designated for the main production of plant proteins and rotational vegetable crops interspersed with green manures.
At present, as far as I am aware there are no Veganic farms or crofts in the whole of the Scottish Highlands. Highland Veganics would be the first-ever plant protein croft in crofting history and we aim to make it a beacon, a replicable model for Veganic Agriculture and a move away from the barbaric unsustainable system that is animal agriculture.
In March 2018, I received confirmation that I had been successful in buying the Assignation of Badaroch Croft and then had to get all its rights signed over from David into my name. At this point, I was given a Crofting business number and named the business, Highland Veganics.
I then tried to access some of the available grants to start work but the crofting grant system is, not only complicated but all geared towards animal agriculture: I can get funding for an abattoir, but not apple trees or green manures to build soil or any other climate mitigating practices. Even their Agri Climate Environment scheme to grow wildflower meadows is dependant on either grazers or haymaking at the end of each season.
Soon, after hearing a shocking program on Radio 4 about how the far-right were funding themselves from crowd donations, I had an epiphany: What if vegans funded other vegans to create veganic farms and rewilding projects? I shared this idea with a group of like-minded vegan people on Twitter and we formed Global Vegan Crowd Funder (GVCF)!
Now GVCF has launched its first project in Highland Veganics, a project we hope will become the flagship model for others to follow!
Why sponsor Highland Veganics?
- Highland Veganics will be the first plant protein Veganic Croft in the whole history of crofting.
- We need funding to plant green manures in approximately 25 acres of overgrazed fields, to build soil and bring back fertility and soil microorganisms.
- We need funding to build hothouses and polytunnels to produce more fragile vegetables and also a tree nursery.
- We need funding to convert an old stone barn into a workshop space to run courses in Veganic farming, soil ecology and nutrition.
- We need funding for infrastructure and to help Highland Veganics become off the grid and create all its own energy. Long term, Highland Veganics will become a centre of excellence for sustainability, ecology and how we live harmoniously in the 21st century.
Please donate to help us on this journey and create a replicable beacon of change in farming practices in the Scottish Highlands
To support Highland Veganics view a project here