Small Producers Pilot Fund Steering Group minutes: June 2023

Minutes of the meeting held on 27 June 2023.

Attendees and apologies

  • Helen Glass, Chair, Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society (SAOS)
  • Fiona Leslie, Scottish Government (SG)
  • Martin Beard, Smallholding Scotland
  • Liz Barron-Majerik, Lantra Scotland
  • Rosemary Champion, Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST)
  • Adam Forrest, Scotland Food & Drink (SFD)
  • Diana Garduño Jiménez, Nourish Scotland
  • Archie Hipwell, smallholder and supply chain consultant
  • Jo Hunt, crofter and Knockfarrel Produce
  • David McKay, Soil Association Scotland (SAS)
  • David Michie, National Farmers’ Union of Scotland (NFUS)
  • Fiona Richmond, Scotland Food & Drink (SFD)
  • Ceri Ritchie, SAC Consulting, Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC)
  • Tara Wight, Land Workers Alliance (LWA)
  • Emma Patterson Taylor, Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society (SAOS)
  • Alan Stevenson, Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society (SAOS)
  • Rona Sutherland, Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society (SAOS)
  • Allison Watson, Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society (SAOS)
  • Fergus Younger, Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society (SAOS)


  • Flora Corbett, Mull Slaughterhouse and Butchery
  • Louise Hellyer, Scottish Government (SG)
  • Abi Mordin, Hidden Veg and Propagate
  • Justin Orde, South of Scotland Enterprise (SOSE)
  • Debs Roberts, Scottish Organic Producers’ Association (SOPA)
  • Scott Walker, Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW

Items and actions

Welcome and introduction

The Chair welcomed everyone to the fourth Steering Group meeting and emphasised the need for the Steering Group to keep discussions focused as tightly as possible on its purpose, namely to develop a Small Producers Pilot Fund (SPPF).

Apologies are noted above. The Minutes of the last meeting on 30 May were adopted and approved for publication on the Scottish Government (SG)’s website.

All action points from that meeting are completed or are in progress. The Scottish Smallholder Festival will be held on 14 October, hopefully at The Highland Hall, Royal Highland Centre, Ingliston, but this is still to be confirmed. There is an opportunity for all subgroup Chairs to take part in a two-hour Question and Answer session at 2pm, addressing the issues that attendees wish to raise. The steering Group could also have a stand at the event. Members asked if information from subgroup discussions could be provided in advance of Steering Group meetings.

Action point 1

Steering Group Members are asked to consider whether they would want a stand at the event and, if so, who would be willing to man it. Thoughts and volunteers to contact Helen Glass at the Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society (SAOS).

Action point 2

Approved notes from subgroup meetings will be posted on the SPPF eRDM Connect folder in advance of Steering Group meetings in a new folder set up by the Scottish Government.

Abattoir survey update

Fergus Younger, SAOS commented that to assess the size of the potential market the abattoir survey should be targeting, ScotEID was asked to identify from its database how many businesses killed up to 200 cattle, 1000 sheep and 250 pigs per year. 1500 businesses were identified that met this criteria and a response rate to the abattoir survey of 500, or one third, is being aimed for. SAOS reported that there have been 432 responses to the survey to date, which is on track for completion by end June, or early July if further promotion is needed in any geographic area.

The team at ScotEID will be asked to breakdown the target market by postcode, so that we can ensure that there is a good response rate across all areas and SAOS will shortly be doing a postcode reconciliation exercise with The Sustainable Food Trust research data. There will be a further push through the breed societies and if any areas appear to be lacking in respondents, Steering Group Members are asked for further help to promote the survey.

In parallel with the producer survey, the team at SAOS has been interviewing the abattoirs: Lockerbie, Shotts and Paisley so far, with the other smaller abattoirs offering direct kill following shortly. Those interviewed so far are indicating that they have the capacity to take more throughput although some had resource issues. 

Members asked if the plan was to interview all the abattoirs and SAOS confirmed that the smaller ones offering a direct kill service are the first priority and interviews with the larger ones will follow. SAOS had also spoken to the Association of Scottish Meat Wholesalers (SAMW) a few weeks ago about this work and larger abattoirs were present at that discussion.

Members expressed the feeling that interviewing both producers and abattoirs was a good opportunity to explore any issues from both perspectives. This would raise awareness and would provide a good foundation for conversations around ways to bridge any gaps and build future relationships based on trust and partnership.

Members also asked at what point the Official Veterinarians (OV) would be included in discussions and SAOS reported that once the summary feedback from the survey was available, the OVs would be contacted. The plans for Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) Veterinary School have also been taken into account and they will be included in the consultation process.

Action point 3

SAOS will post summary results from the survey to date on the SPPF eRDM Connect folder.

Action point 4

The survey link will be re-circulated to Members by email.

Subgroup 4 supply chain update

Archie Hipwell commented that the subgroup has had one meeting so far to discuss key supply chain challenges and potential solutions to those. Key challenges included:

  • the difficulty of small producers being recognised as serious players when production volumes are low
  • tack of knowledge, understanding and expertise in marketing, distribution and logistics can make accessing markets difficult. Selling direct can be a challenge and very time consuming, when only small quantities are being produced. Understanding and negotiating the public procurement process is also very difficult
  • access to abattoirs and butchery provision, along with access to chilled and frozen warehousing storage
  • access to seasonal labour
  • access to capital grant support
  • The discussion around potential solutions is summarised here:
  • the new SPPF needs to be flexible to accommodate a range of different solutions, but not duplicate support already in place
  • the idea of an expertise hub was floated. This could cover, for example, advice on marketing, logistics, production issues and accessing funding
  • support for collaboration in, for example, production, understanding markets, sharing resources in the marketplace, joint purchasing, shared knowledge gathering
  • marketing/education campaign to encourage greater local sourcing
  • support to negotiate the public procurement process
  • reduce knowledge gaps by supporting access to, for example, information on markets and funding. A single source of information on existing sources of relevant finance, advice and research would be very useful
  • it would also be useful to be able to identify all the local producers in each area, to encourage collaboration and knowledge sharing and reduce the loneliness of often working alone
  • support local producers to be sustainable, understand different sales models, use local infrastructure (e.g. use of village halls as product pick-up points, or for producer markets)

The subgroup’s second meeting will focus on discussing potential solutions to the challenges in more detail.

Members were supportive of action that would better highlight the existing support and initiatives that are available and are aware that small producers are not necessarily linked into the networks that do know about them.

It was recognised that these communications could be improved and that the network of Regional Food Groups could have a key role to play here as well as utilising existing smallholder/small producer networks. The type of communication needs to be considered – not only social media and digital, but also peer to peer.

A number of initiatives were mentioned that small producers might be interested in, including the work that SRUC has been undertaking with rural and island communities: Novel Insights on Scotland’s Rural and Island Economies (NISRIE) NISRIE; and in collaboration with Queen Margaret University: THRIVE a free initiative supporting the next generation of food, drink and rural entrepreneurs Food & Enterprise | SRUC

There was also recognition that consideration needs to be given to longer term sustainability. Many of the existing initiatives and support are funded for short periods and then cease, leading to a lack of continuity and difficulty for producers in keeping up to date with what support is available at any one time. Though the SPPF can only be funded for a short period due to the nature of the Scottish Government funding protocols, the Steering Group could look at producing lists of longer-term support needs.

There is also a need for the SPPF to consider the long-term sustainability of the projects it funds to ensure that they will have a lasting impact on the business well beyond the period of support.

Action point 5

The subgroup would like to ask the wider Steering Group Members to consider all the information on funding and advice that is out there and how that might be consolidated and communicated to small producers. Please contact Archie Hipwell with any thoughts for the subgroup to consider.

Subgroup 1 “definition of a small producer” update  

Emma Patterson Taylor, SAOS commented that the subgroup has had three meetings to date, with a fourth in the diary. Justin Orde from South of Scotland Enterprise (SOSE) shared information that SOSE uses to define an “active” business. The subgroup felt this could be very useful and could be adapted for use as part of the SPPF small producer definition. Justin is currently seeking SOSE’s approval for this. 

The subgroup is still considering an upper limit of 30 hectares, with a lower limit of 1 hectare, or possibly no lower limit if the SOSE definition of an active business could be used.

The issue of access to capital was raised again. Justin has prepared a first draft outline capex paper. Jo Hunt has volunteered to contribute to the re-draft and when ready it will be posted on the SPPF eRDM Connect folder for Steering Group Members to comment on. The Scottish Government was also asked if it could provide some guidance on what it expects the document should evidence and specify.

Members also asked whether the review of the Crofting Agricultural Grant Scheme (CAGS) was available to share yet to help inform the definition of a small producer. The Scottish Government confirmed that it has asked for the information but has not received anything yet to share with the Group. The information will be around capital funding so may be useful for the capex paper.

Action point 6

SOSE’s application process and definition will be posted on the SPPF eRDM Connect folder if SOSE’s approval is obtained.

Action point 7

The Scottish Government will contact SOSE to discuss the draft capex paper, which, when revised, will be posted on the SPPF eRDM Connect folder by the end of July.

Subgroup 2 monitoring and evaluation update

David Michie, National Farmers’ Union of Scotland (NFUS) commented that the subgroup has had one meeting so far and prepared a presentation for the Steering Group, which will be uploaded to the SPPF eRDM Connect folder. In summary, the subgroup considered that the main purpose of monitoring and evaluating will be to show the Scottish Government how its support of the sector through the SPPF is helping it to achieve its objectives relating to climate change, restoration of wildlife, creation of a more diverse rural sector and development of a Good Food Nation.

The SPPF could support the development of strong, localised food supply chains; practices and processes that reduce emissions and benefit nature; and initiatives that are inclusive and support diversity. The range of possible activities is wide, for example, skills development, supply chain initiatives, on-farm demonstrations, network development.

It is important that there is a sustainable legacy that lasts beyond the funding, so any evaluation process should revisit projects after funding has ceased to see what changes have been made. It is also important to look at any lessons that can be learned and how the impacts and outcomes from individual projects contribute towards the wider objectives.

Data collection will be very important and may be obtained in a combination of ways: through the initial application process, surveys and forms, facilitator reporting, interviews during and post-project, in[1]depth case studies, network analysis, etc. Typological analysis would help in working out who benefits most and what type of support results in the greatest sustainable impacts.

The subgroup hopes to have some examples that will link in with the other ubgroups of the sort of activities that would be undertaken, i.e. map out where data would be collected and what could be done with it to show that outcomes are being delivered. The plan is to produce a short paper setting out why we are evaluating, what, where, when and how the evaluation is going to be carried out.

Members asked whether data would be collected on volume and value of sales, employment, etc. and David Michie confirmed that the subgroup had included hard data like this in its discussions, as well as soft data on attitudes and perceptions, to capture intention to change, identity and strength of networks.

Action point 8

The presentation will be posted on the SPPF eRDM Connect folder.

Subgroup 3 training and skills update

Liz Barron-Majerik, Lantra Scotland commented that the subgroup has met once so far, though one participant was unable to attend the first meeting. A significant piece of desk research had been undertaken prior to that meeting to map out the type of courses currently available to small producers, course length, cost and providers, which was helpful background for the discussion. Lantra was also able to talk through the funding mechanisms and access processes for these.

It was felt that there was an appetite for skills and training, but it can be difficult to establish the need, therefore it would be better if there were a training fund component to the SPPF not to be too prescriptive, but keep things fairly open and flexible and see where the demand is. People are often drawn to skills development in areas they want, rather than necessarily in the areas they need.

Mentoring and peer-to-peer learning should be considered, as well as training of the trainers and verifiers. Knowledge transfer and knowledge exchange are also important.

The SPPF needs to be easily accessible and there should be more support for/priority given to applications which would have a major impact on the business. Any application process for training support should be simple.

Members commented that there seems to have been a shift from time-limited courses towards more knowledge exchange and peer-to-peer support, or to a combination of the two, for example a one/two day course followed by advice, mentoring or some form of peer-to-peer support.

Nourish Scotland has completed a report on the effectiveness of knowledge exchange among farmers, crofters, grower groups across Scotland in supporting the transition to sustainable and regenerative agriculture: Agroecology Enabling the Transition- Final Report (

Members were asked for their views on what they would see success looking like from a skills angle – a general broadening of the skills base and improving in areas people may not want to improve in, but would benefit from improving in, or is it more about specialisation and advancement in particular technical areas?

Action point 9

Any Members interested in joining the Training and Skills subgroup should contact Helen Glass at SAOS.

Action point 10

Members to contact Liz Barron-Majerik at Lantra with any thoughts/views for the subgroup to consider.

Engagement activities

Emma Patterson Taylor, SAOS commented that most of the individual meetings with Steering Group Members have now taken place, with three outstanding and these are in the process of being arranged.

Three group visits have been organised. The Dumfries and Galloway visit will take place on July 21st as detailed at last month’s meeting. The Stirling visit will take place week commencing 21st August, on either the Wednesday, Thursday or Friday of that week. Three businesses have indicated their willingness to participate, all within half an hour’s drive of Stirling. The first is a new business operating a box scheme with vegetables and cut flowers from Upper Ballaird Farm, near Buchlyvie. The second is Gartur Stitch Farm at Dykehead, near Arnprior, a 7acre smallholding growing chemical-free vegetables, pasture-raised pigs, poultry and free-range. The third is Wester Culmore Farm near Kippen, a 40acre agricultural contracting, hay and grazing business.

Dates for the Dingwall visit are still to be arranged, but likely to be in September. Those attending should try to arrange travel share, but will be able to claim expenses for time, travel and carer support costs if required.

Action point 11

Members interested in attending any/all should register their interest by contacting Helen Glass at SAOS.

29 August meeting

Helen Glass, SAOS advised that the sixth meeting, on Tuesday 29 August, will be held in person, at the Science & Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA) offices: Roddinglaw Road, Edinburgh, EH12 9FJ Tel: 0131 244 8890. 

It will start at 10am and run until approximately 3pm, providing an opportunity for more in-depth discussions around the findings of the subgroups. Lunch and refreshments will be provided and Members will be able to submit claims for travel and expenses to attend. Members were asked to put forward their suggestions as what they would like to cover at that meeting. One suggestion proposed is that the Subgroup Chairs run short workshop sessions, possibly concurrently.

Action point 12

Steering Group Members should contact Helen Glass at SAOS with their suggestions of what they would like to see covered at that meeting

Date of next meeting

The next meeting will be on Tuesday 25 July at 10am to noon by Teams conference call.

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