Farming has been a way of life in Orkney for 5,000 years since Neolithic farmers raised crops and livestock on our fertile land. Things have changed since then of course with Orkney now a modern farming community and a very successful industry.
Produce raised in Orkney is famous across Britain, particularly Orkney beef. In fact Orkney has the highest density of beef cattle in Europe and is the biggest dairy area north of Stirling. At the other extreme, the small flock of rare breed North Ronaldsay sheep is also famous for its life on the shore and its seaweed diet.
There are many agricultural organisations looking out for the islands' farmers. Every year though, the main event in the calendar is the County Show in the Bignold Park in Kirkwall, organised by Orkney Agricultural Society. Here, after more than a week of agricultural shows across Orkney, farmers come to show off their animals and hope for a show champion. Farmers also take their animals to shows in the south, such as the Royal Highland Show near Edinburgh and regularly bring home prizes. And their animals make good prices at mart sales both in Orkney and Aberdeen.
Orkney Livestock Association is a farmer-led health scheme which aims to eliminate disease in cattle.
NFU Scotland is active in Orkney through its local branches and has many members. The union campaigns for farmers by attempting to influence government and by persuading consumers to buy Scottish farmers’ produce.
Young Farmers’ clubs are Orkney, East Mainland and Sandwick.
Orkney Farmers’ Market Association is another organisation based here to support producers. It operates a market the last Saturday of the month in Kirkwall.
Agricultural grants for farmers and landowners are available through the agricultural department of the Scottish Government, SGRPID (Scottish Government Rural Payments and Inspections Directorate) which has a Kirkwall office.