Each week, the boys head out into the beautiful Pentland Hills for Young Farmers. For the last few years, John and Mary-Jane have welcomed us at Carsewell Farm on the Penicuik Estate. The estate itself is 7500 acres, with 1400 acres in hand (300 acres of arable, 100 acres of forage rape and kale, and 750 acres of woodland). There are always plenty of jobs for the boys; they help with the livestock, machinery and land management. And we are lucky enough to be sponsored by HRN Tractors, in Perth, who provide the boys with all the kit they need to be safe, comfortable and warm.
There is nothing more exciting than jumping in the back of a pick-up or on a quad to go and help with the sheep. The boys help move them, set up the pens and help with management, such as foot dipping. Other jobs include bedding the cows, tinkering with the farm machinery, power hosing, building fences, potato harvesting, planting hedgerows and helping to bottle feed the lambs in the Spring. We even brought a few lambs back to Merchiston for a few days this year and bottle fed them in the Junior School. A few of our older boys now have their tractor licenses, which comes in handy. John will also often organise industry professionals to meet the boys at the farm and talk about crop rotation, for example. One of the favourite visitors to the farm is the vet; the boys get to watch him working with the cows in the crush and gain an invaluable insight into life as a farm vet.
Getting out onto the hills, being practical and working with animals is a highlight of the week for many of our Young Farmer boys. As one of them, from a farming background, said last week, ‘It’s like spending an afternoon at home’. For other boys, who perhaps do not have backgrounds in farming, we have seen this activity promote confidence, independence, resilience, empathy and teamwork. It’s no wonder that this is a very popular activity; all of our Young Farmers boys in VI Form have been coming every year since they were in Shell and they are now teaching the ropes to our younger boys coming through.
Thank you to Mary Jane and John for hosting us and making this a highlight of the week, not only for the boys, but for the staff involved.