Winners Follow-up: Andrew and Aileen Marchant, 2019 New Entrants Award: Against the Odds

An admirable determination to build a sound business from scratch impressed last year’s judges, who chose Andrew and Aileen Marchant as their New Entrant of the Year in the British Farming Awards. Clemmie Gleeson finds more about their journey.

A passion for agriculture and a dream to run his own business led Andrew Marchant to achieve his ambition to farm in his own right.

Neither he nor wife Aileen are from a farming background, but Andrew’s father, who was principal of a land-based college in Scotland, proved the catalyst in his introduction to agriculture.

“I wanted to do agriculture when I left school, but a lot of people told me it was silly as we didn’t have a farm and never would,” says Andrew.

“So I went into engineering for a few years.”

Despite his efforts, he was unhappy with the choice so he decided to pursue his farming ambition via a degree from The University of Edinburgh.

“I was always quite entrepreneurial as a youngster and liked the idea of having my own business and being in charge of my own destiny,” he says.

After graduating, Andrew worked on several farms before securing a management role on a beef and dairy farm in Dumfriesshire.

“It was a fantastic job, but I still had the feeling I would like to have a crack at farming myself. I was always very open about that being my ambition,” he says.

Andrew and Aileen visited many potential holdings over the years, but none quite fitted the bill.

“It was a real struggle to find a decent opportunity,” he says.

“Often it was a block of land with no steading, or we were bidding against established businesses and had no chance.

“We needed a farm that had a steading to give us a base. I was really keen to start my own business, but it needed to be right. I didn’t want to do it at all costs.”

At this point Aileen was working as a teacher and they had their own house, so a potential holding had to be large enough for a full-time income but also have potential for further growth.


“Winning the award was an important milestone in our farming story. I am go grateful for the acknowledgment we are doing a good job



“It was only going to work if I could see it as a viable stand-alone business,” he adds.

His patience paid off when Clonhie Farm on the Buccleuch Estate became available in 2012.

It had been earmarked as suitable for a new entrant and Andrew and Aileen were delighted to be successful in securing it.

They took over the 90ha tenancy on March 1 and have since taken on further land bringing the total up to 300ha.

Aileen continued with her teaching job and the couple invested all their savings into the farm business. In the early years Andrew also worked on other farms to bring in some extra money.

“We ploughed all that money in to buy more stock,” he explains.

By year four he was full-time on his own farm. At this point they had around 800 ewes. Now the flock stands at around 1,000 ewes, plus 30 suckler cows and 175 red deer hinds.

They also rear dairy replacements on contract for other farms.

“Our estate landlord has been fantastic supporting us with infrastructure and fencing. It’s been tremendous,” he says.

Andrew and Aileen’s main investments have been in livestock and pasture improvements.

As well as liming and re-seeding their upland grazing, they also purchased electric fencing to enable rotational grazing to make sure they get the best out of the pasture.

“That was a big investment, but gives a great rate of return,” he explains.

Keen to also improve the genetics and productivity of his cattle and sheep, Andrew’s breed of choice for the suckler herd was the Scottish native Luing.

“They are really hardy so can out-winter, are quite a good size and produce a good marketable store calf.

“They are also very easy fleshing off grass.”

So far, all heifer calves have been kept to build the herd, but he hopes soon to be able to offer some for sale as breeding stock.

The heifers are calved at two years old, which has accelerated the growth of the herd. Bull calves are sold on to a finisher at 16 months.

Andrew uses Innovis genetics in the sheep flock including Aberfield and Highlander tups.

He aims for 150 per cent lambs reared and finishes all lambs if possible, selling at around 19kg deadweight to Kepak.

A major focus on farm has been to target the use of expensive inputs.

“We grow forage crops, such as kale and hybrid rape kale, and hope to be able to winter our ewes without any concentrates,” he says.

Purchase of a new sheep handling system with automatic clamp and  draughting unit has helped with this.

“We tag lambs at three weeks and from then monitor weight gain. It helps us make decisions on treatments like wormers and if they are steadily gaining 300g per day we won’t dose them unless it’s needed.”

“Farming is something we do because we love it, but we wouldn’t be where we are without the help and support of those we love”



In 2018, Andrew started producing deer as a joint venture with his landlord. As 50:50 partners they now have 175 red deer hinds and rear all the calves to finished weight when they are sold to Dovecote Park.

“It has been really good having a partner,” Andrew says.

“It allows you to grow the business quicker and brings many benefits to both parties.”

Realising his ambition to run his own farm business has presented its fair share of challenges relating to access of finance and land availability.

“They go hand in hand – you can’t get one without the other,” says Andrew.

“It is really hard to get going, but as long as you make a good job of it, it gets easier quite quickly.”

Cashflow has also been a challenge at times.

“It can be so frustrating – you’re looking to advance but the lack of capital makes it impossible,” he says.

“However it has meant that we have built a lean business on very low fixed costs and we still run the business on those principals.

“So while it has been a challenge, it can also be a positive. I can see that now.”

For now his focus is on finding the right balance for the farm.

“I am reducing sheep numbers a little and increasing cattle numbers to strike a better balance for the grazing, feeding and the work, cashflow and lifestyle. I need all those things to marry up,” he adds.

Aileen continues to teach four days a week while also working on the farm, with Andrew adding: “It is very much a team effort

“The mixture works very well as we have the security of her income which has been absolutely vital.

“It has allowed us to take more risks and push on with the farm.”

Their two children – William, nine, and Anna, seven – are also keen to get stuck into tasks on the farm.


Friends and neighbours have also played an important part in their success, especially in the early days with lending machinery and helping with shearing and other big jobs.

This was particularly pertinent when Andrew broke his leg.

“Aileen had to take up the slack and a lot of neighbours helped us as I was in plaster for six weeks. You need other people around you at times like that,” Andrew says.

So when they were named as the winners of last year’s New Entrant Award at the British Farming Awards, the couple paid further tribute to those people who had helped the couple through their most challenging times.

“Winning the award was an important milestone in our farming story,” he says.

“It was as much for the other people who have helped us out along the way to say that it was worth it.

“I’m so grateful for the acknowledgment we are doing a decent job and the message that portrays to our bank and landlord.

“The process of entering the award makes you look at everything you are doing and why you are doing it, but also makes you look at all that you have achieved.

“Farming is something we do because we love it, but we wouldn’t be where we are without the help and support of those we love.”