It is all about strategy when integrating forestry according to Winner of Best Agroforestry, the Adamson family, W Laird and Sons, Netherurd Home Farm, West Linton.

Situated on the boundary between the Scottish Borders and South Lanarkshire you will find Netherurd Home Farm home to Andrew Adamson and his family.

Originally an estate, Andrew’s great grandparents took the tenancy of the Home Farm in 1940 under the name W Laird and Sons. They then had the opportunity to buy the farm when the estate was split in the 1950s.

Andrew runs the farm in partnership with his mother, and wife Jayne, and they live at Netherurd with their two children Hazel who is in S2, and Jon who is in primary 5. The farm spans 626 acres and rises between 721 and 1150 feet above sea level.

Forestry Journal: The original woodland that runs along the county boundary sitting next to a newer plantationThe original woodland that runs along the county boundary sitting next to a newer plantation

“From the top of the hill, you can see South Lanarkshire, Midlothian, and the wind turbines from the Clyde Valley.”

Despite all the imagery agroforestry might conjure up, Andrew prides himself on being a farm that will always prioritise the production of meat.

“We are a meat farm, all our livestock are here with the end consumer in mind. We aren’t anything but a commercial business.”

The Adamsons currently have 912 sheep with the production of 1250 prime lambs from mainly Suffolk and Texel sires sold for the domestic market. They also are a grower and finisher of 230 stock cattle of mainly native breeds.

Forestry Journal: Felling permissions to clean up the damage of Storm Arwen have only recently come throughFelling permissions to clean up the damage of Storm Arwen have only recently come through

Buying stores both privately and at the market from 6-20 months old but the majority of the cattle bought in are yearling. They are housed in the autumn and go back out to grass in the late spring. They are marketed through the former Scotbeef Bridge of Allan site, MacDuff 1890, and H&H St Boswells mart.

Andrew grows 20 acres of forage crop of mostly Swedes but he is now experimenting with fodder beet. He also grows 50 acres of cereal crops with all his crops intended for feeding his stock.

It was Andrew’s father who started planting trees in the 1970s, acting as a shelter belt to protect the farm from the prevailing winds coming through the valley.

Forestry Journal: Timber provides an extra source of income at Netherurd Home FarmTimber provides an extra source of income at Netherurd Home Farm

“So much of the forestry was replanted by my dad in the 70s because we needed the shelter. There was also a fair amount planted before when Netherurd was a sporting estate which helped for shoots and my dad was keen to add to it.”

Netherurd has 98 acres of woodland comprising a mixture of species of trees in fields, native woodlands, productive conifers, and mixed woodlands. As well as providing much needed shelter from strong weather, the trees also offer shade to the livestock during the hot summer months. This allows for early turnout of ewes with lambs in the spring.

Andrew aims to add more forestry as well as improve existing woodland by thinning to produce better saw logs and to earmark new areas for woodland plantation.

Forestry Journal: Andrew still considers Netherurd to be a commercial livestock businessAndrew still considers Netherurd to be a commercial livestock business

“We have utilised areas of the farm that were too risky to use otherwise. We have a new plantation of woodland on what was a dangerously steep bit of land that would endanger anyone working on it. We also had a boggy bit that the cattle would routinely get stuck in so I had fenced it off and introduced trees and a pond in that space.”

The Adamsons have found not only does it add to the natural capital of the farm but also helps to broaden the spectrum of diversity. They recently had a biodiversity audit via the FAS that confirmed the rich variety of species currently habituating the Netherurd woodland.

“You would be amazed at what they found even on the edges of some of the plantations. We have seen some of our new woodlands create habitats for new birds, mammals, and invertebrates within the last ten years. The audit confirmed we had to continue with our long term approach with our land management and that we need to continue looking after certain species of our rich grassland.”

Of course, with all the environmental buzzwords it could be easy to anger naysayers who turn their nose up at forestry integration. Andrew stresses that woodland growth is just another way to diversify the farm and bring in other enterprises.

Forestry Journal: Netherurd Home Farm was originally part of the Netherurd EstateNetherurd Home Farm was originally part of the Netherurd Estate

“Last year at the NFUS conference I was asked to speak on diverse agri incomes, every other speaker there was talking about agritourism and I was there promoting forestry. Tourism isn’t for everyone, because of the way the estate was divided up we couldn’t do it, our trees are there for trees' sake, they provide timber production and make use of poorer land. I am absolutely against greenwashing, it is a huge problem even the forestry advisors don’t agree with it. Then you get carbon audits which can be weighted in favour of whoever is conducting the audit. I do not believe carbon is a tradeable commodity and it should be retained for our own purposes on the farm.”

Like many of us, Netherurd has suffered from some of the extreme weather we have had in recent years. Some of the most significant damage happened during Storm Arwen in November 2021.

“We are lucky where we are we have missed a lot of the rain and wind from the east but you can still see the remnants of Storm Arwen on the woodland just above the farmhouse. The winds came through the valley and struck the back of the plantation and we have only just got all the right permissions now to tidy it up. We are hoping to get it replanted by early next year with a mix of hard and soft woods.”

Like a lot of farmers, the Adamsons didn’t consider the work they did as award worthy. It was only when Andrew became involved with Scottish Forestry’s Integrated Tree Network (ITN) did he recognise the progress from developing the business.

“We are one of six original host farms for the Integrated Tree Network and through that, I have been able to promote agroforestry through NFUS, Farm Advisory Service, Forestry Journal and I even had a visit from MSP and secretary for Net Zero Màiri McAllan. We first put ourselves forward for Scotland’s Finest Woods Awards in 2022 and we were highly commended in the Farm Woodland category, we were nominated and applied because of this.”

Both Andrew and his wife Jayne are still blown away by their award.

“We genuinely were not expecting it, we were speechless when our name was called out. It made the night very special for what was already a great event for our industry, long may it continue.”

When asked what they hoped their award win would promote Andrew simply said: “If we can encourage more folk to consider integrating forestry into their farms then that’s the main thing, we do need to have more of a focus on the future agri enviro support.”

When looking to the future at Netherurd, Andrew hopes that the business will pass down to his children.

“I don’t mind if they want to make changes or keep it the same but you have to understand that things don’t stand still for long. As for us, we will see what the wind blows us but I don’t see the trees leaving the business anytime soon.”

Forestry Journal judged the inaugural agroforestry prize, and editor John McNee said: “Netherurd Home Farm exemplifies agroforestry excellence by seamlessly integrating trees and sheep into a sustainable, biodiverse ecosystem which enhances its own business. Its thoughtful approach to creating, managing, and incorporating woodland offers significant benefits to the landscape and livestock while supporting wildlife habitat and producing commercial timber.

"With owners dedicated to educating fellow farmers about the benefits of trees, this harmonious coexistence of agriculture and forestry serves as a shining model for sustainable land management, making it a worthy award recipient.”

This feature originally appeared in our sister title, The Scottish Farmer.