I'm certain that many farmers have entrepreneurialism hard wired into their DNA. Frequently I'm awestruck about how much one person or one family can achieve from the germ of an idea, combined with vision, hard work and dogged determination.
We are very lucky to be visiting one such family business as part of the IFAJ Congress in 2014. The Mackie's farm at Westertown, near Rothienorman in Aberdeenshire, epitomises entrepreneurialism. The business has evolved into a dairy farm which produces - amongst other things - quality dairy ice-creams.
The diversification into on-farm processing was started by third generation Maitland Mackie, who set up a milk retail business and produced ice-cream to use up surplus cream. More recently, Mackies have added a range of potato crisps to their food bisiness, produced in partnership with another Scottish firm, Taypack.
The farm and processing business has very good green credentials. It is powered by home-generated energy from three wind turbines standing on the farm, in addition they have installed 150 kilowatts of solar panels. They use about a third of the electricity produced, selling the rest to electricity companies via the national grid.
Mackies - now being run by the fourth generation of the family - has become one of the most successful businesses in north east Scotland employing 70 people. They produce 10 million litres of ice-cream, in twelve rich and delicious flavours, exporting it as far afield as South Korea, the UEA and India. Their crisps are retailed in 20 countries, including Japan, UEA, China and the USA. The business now also produces Mackies branded ice - handy for your G&T to go with your bag of delicious Flamegrilled Aberdeen Angus Mackies crisps!
It seems like the innovation at Westertown knows no bounds. The cows are milked by robotic milking machines, they have invested in technology to produce 90% of their own packaging on site and they are considering a biogas plant. Even the cows are cutting edge with selection underway to breed for A2 milk, suitable for some lactose intolerant people.
At the 2014 Congress we will be spending the afternoon and evening of the 5th of September in the fascinating company and surroundings of the Mackies. I'm certain those coming along will walk away inspired!
See what else we have planned at www.ifaj2014.com to find out more about Mackies go to: http://www.mackies.co.uk/ and for more on A2 milk, go to: http://www.a2milk.co.uk/