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Agriculture - Weel Wrocht Grun

This was a relatively stable way of life, which lasted for more than 2,000 years, until contact was made with small groups of incoming farmers who were gradually removing the forest for agriculture. These farmers had come across the sea from North West EuropeFrom the evidence of the massive timber hall at Balbridie on Deeside, they had origins in North France and on the North European plain.

They grew wheat and barley and raised sheep and cattle. They were also responsible for the earliest burial features, the Loncairns or Barrows. The construction of these features, which are prominent in the landscape, could take a long time.  The mound at Dalladies, near Edzell, took 6,000 person-hours to construct.  These first farmers were also responsible for introducing pottery and polished stone axes. Their descendants made use of the deposits of flint near the coast at Boddam, south of Peterhead.

Balbridie is the site of a Neolithic timber Granary Hall 25M x 13M In Aberdeenshire, Situated in the south Deeside near the B9077 road.  This site is one of the earliest known permanent neolithic settlements in Scotland.  This early Neolithic structure was burnt down about 3780 - 3640 BC.  The end-posts on the main internal subdivisions within the building were off-set, so as to continue the line and spacing of a number of aisle-posts set about one metre in from the medial line of the outer construction trench. Furthermore, these aisle posts on the better-preserved, southern side of the structure (the northern long side has been much more severely degraded by ploughing) sat directly opposite additional posts set within but against the inner margin of the outer construction trench. These apparent liaisons provide the best indication the site furnishes in structural terms for the surviving features representing a single -- and thus very substantial -- Hall. Further evidence for a roofed structure may be provided by the unabraded character of the ceramic assemblage; and more particularly by the substantial quantities of plant macrofossils recovered. Whilst no European Neolithic building known to the authors duplicates the scale (particularly the width) of Balbridie, a number of specific elements noted in its architecture can be paralleled across the Channel, for example in a near-contemporary building at Berry-au-Bac in the Aisne Valley of Northern France. Two final observations serve to highlight the achievement of Balbridie's builders: this large hall lacks evidence both for a line of substantial posts placed centrally along its long axis and any indication of external buttressing. 

The ever changing North East landscape, the land was worked to change it from moorland to rich farmland Ploughing and sowing, how cultivation changed and how the tools and skills of the ploughman developed.  Harvesting and haymaking, showing how farming began to be mechanised, with the introduction of reaping and mowing machinery and the 1st tractors.  Grain processing, showing the methods which were used to separate the harvested crop into its useful parts, from straw and chaff for human and animal bedding, to the cereal grain itself, which fed both people and animals.  The cultivation of turnips as part of the prescribed 6 year crop rotation.  Without the development of the humble “neep” in the 18th Century, it would not have been possible to feed the beef cattle which became the mainstay of North East farming wealth.

One horse required the same amount of food as six humans but produced ten times as much work. Until the introduction of tractors after World War ll, horses were the essential element in Aberdeenshire Agriculture.

Beyond the Grampians



The 1st engine-powered farm tractors used steam and were introduced in 1868. These engines were built as small road locomotives and were operated by one man if the engine weighed less than 5 tons. They were used for general road haulage and in particular by the timber trade. The most popular steam tractor was the Richard Garrett 4CD.

Vintage Farm Tractors:
With the advent of the internal combustion engine powered farm tractor at the turn of the 19th century, farm mechanisation began to take on a new meaning.  The traditional methods of horse and steam power were labour intensive, laborious and costly.  Prior to the 1st World War several makers produced various tractors which basically combined a stationary engine mounted on a chassis to drive the wheels using a chain.  While useful for powering thrashing machines and other devices using a belt pulley for drive these tractors were for the most part a novelty.

This Traction Engine has a plate on its side with the name of W Reid, Insch as the Proprietor. Sacks of grain on 2 wagons are followed at the rear by the mobile Threshing Mill indicating its pulling power.  Dunnideer Hill is seen behind, and this photograph was taken in Insch at the junction between the B9002 to Kennethmont and the B992 to Whitehouse, with the Traction Engine heading towards Insch.

A 1912 Clayton Steam Wagon, the 1st made by the Company at Abbey Works in Lincoln. It was bought new by Alexander Thompson at the Royal Show at Doncaster in that year


With the advent of the 1st World War and the consequent shortage of manpower and blockades, it became imperative that far more efficient methods of farming be introduced.  The introduction of the mass-produced Fordson in 1917 at much lower costs then other makers products set the standards for all other makers to attain.  By the early 1920's Ford had captured 75 percent of the Tractor market, this resulted in intensive competition and the introduction of many fine Tractors by a host of makers, such as: International, Case, Ferguson, Allis Chalmers, John Deere, David Brown and many others all of which became well known names in the farming industry and a common sight in the countryside.

Aberdeenshire is sometimes described as the largest contiguous block of arable land north of Yorkshire. It covers approximately 1.3 million acres of agricultural land, a third of which is rough grazing mainly on the eastern edge of the Grampians, leaving around 777,000 acres of arable split fairly equally between crops and grass. This is one of the most mixed farming areas in the UK. All of the farming enterprises to be found in Scotland are also found in Aberdeenshire. While the area only has 9% of Scotland’s agricultural land, it has a much higher proportion of most crops and livestock, and of farm labour.  Aberdeenshire, traditionally seen as a livestock area, is a very important cereal growing area. cereals account for 27% of Aberdeenshire agricultural output (15% for Scotland) and this ignores the value of cereals fed on-farm (which may be as much as a third of the total, compared to less than 10% in other arable areas of Scotland). The proximity to a large number of grain handling ports and an expanding malting industry is underpinning the importance of the crop sector despite the apparent remoteness of the North East. There has been a steady shift toward winter cereals (32% of the total) reflecting their higher potential returns, the benefits of cereal/ rape rotations and to spread fixed costs, but Aberdeenshire is still dominated by spring barley, and this is likely to remain the case given the growth in the malting sector (Aberdeenshire now accounts for a 3rd of Scottish malting barley requirements).

Potatoes occupy a small area in Aberdeenshire, but provide 15% of output. While the other potato areas of Scotland have shifted to over 70% ware production, the opposite has happened in Aberdeenshire, with over 70% in seed. Specialist fruit and vegetable crops occupy a small area, but have increased sharply recently, perhaps the green shoots of a shift to a wider range of crops and an indication of problems in their production further south.  While cropping is important, some arable land is on the edge of what can be economically cropped, and as a result the area had a slightly larger proportion of set-aside and fallow than, for example, South East Scotland. This may now provide an opportunity for the region to profit from higher commodity prices.

Aberdeenshire is the lead area in Scottish cattle finishing, carrying a quarter of Scotland’s total. The large beef sector has attracted a high level of direct support. This may explain why Aberdeenshire is more reliant on subsidy (38% of total output) than Scotland as a whole 35%.) Despite declining breeding cattle numbers in Scotland as a whole, feeding cattle numbers in Aberdeenshire have increased over the study period, with around a third imported into the area from the rest of Scotland. With similar (though stronger) trends in the sheep sector, the 4 Aberdeenshire Abattoirs have expanded their share of red meat slaughtering, from 37% of finished cattle and 30% of lambs in 2003, to 43% of cattle and 41% of lambs in 2007. While the share of red meat slaughtering has increased, the region has lost pig processing at Buckie and chicken processing at Banff. Despite this, the area still dominates Scottish pig production, with around 70 local producers accounting for almost 60% of Scottish output.  Perhaps the most surprising aspect of agriculture in Aberdeenshire over the period 2003 to 2007 is its stability. Despite very poor cereal prices to 2006, tremendous pressures in the livestock sector from low prices, yet livestock numbers and crop areas have declined very little. What may have changed more is how businesses organise their farming and where farm families get their income. 

The main exception to stability is the dairy sector. Dairy cow numbers have almost halved since 1998 and output volume has fallen by a 5th over the study period. Ewe numbers have also declined significantly (17%) since 1998, but lambing rates are higher. 



Rowett Institute of Nutrition & Health - Bucksburn

The Institute was constituted in 1913 and work began in 1914 to be quickly suspended until 1919. An American, reputed to be a Rum Smuggier, Dr. John Quiller Rowett gifted the land. The 1st buildings opened in 1922, including Laboratories and a Library. The Institute included the Duthie experimental stock farm of 600 acres and 400 acres of hill pasture. It provides useful links between veterinary and human sciences plus public health and agriculture. Perhaps John Boyd Orr undertook its most famous work in the 1930's demonstrating the link between income and diet. He also showed that compared with the English, Scottish people eat 3 times as much syrup, treacle, jam and marmalade.

Ever since Sir John Boyd Orr, the founding Director of the Rowett Institute, saved the UK Dairy Industry in the 1920s by increasing sales after demonstrating the health benefits of milk for schoolchildren, the Institute has worked with industry to ensure the effective application of its research outputs.  In recent times the Institute has seen 5 spin-out companies develop from its research base.  Today, the Institute is at the centre of several major initiatives to assist the food industry to reach new markets and increase sales by developing healthier products.  The quality of the science and its applications is underlined by the 2 Rowett Scientists who have received Nobel Prizes:   Sir John Boyd Orr, who was the recipient of the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1949 and Richard Synge, in 1952, jointly with John Porter Martin for discovery of Partition Chromatography

Aberdeenshire Farming Museum
(NE of Scotland Agricultural Heritage Centre)
Situated within Aden Country Park, between Old Deer and Mintlaw, 9 miles (15 km) west of Peterhead, the Aberdeenshire Farming Museum is one of the most visited attractions in NE Scotland and comprises the North East of Scotland Agricultural Heritage Centre and Hareshowe Working Farm. Located in an unusual early 19th-century curved steading building, the Heritage Centre tells the story of the Aden Estate, North East farming life and agricultural innovations through displays and audio-visual presentations. The steading had become derelict during the 20th century, but was renovated in 1983 by Banff and Buchan District Council. Hareshowe of Ironside is a typical small Buchan farm steading. Once located 9 miles (14.5 km) from Aden Country Park and owned by the Barron family from 1935 until the late 1980s, it was dismantled stone-by-stone and rebuilt on its present site in 1990-91. The farm was returned to its mid-1950s character. Guided tours are offered in addition to demonstrations of Kitchencraft in the farmhouse and traditional working practices on the 8 ha (20 acres) of farmland. Hareshowe was opened as a museum on the 3rd May 1991 by its former owner Miss Margaret Barron.
North East Scotland Agricultural Heritage Centre,
Aden Country Park

AB42 5FQ

Alford Heritage Centre and Museum
The old Auction Mart in Alford, once the hub of farming activity for Upper Donside, was closed in 1986. Today the building houses an intriguing exhibition of rural bygones which give an insight into the life of the ordinary working people of Donside and NE Scotland.  Little mention here of the Laird and the 'big hoose', but instead, the story of the ploughman and kitchie deem, the small farm and croft, the tradesman, and life in a small village - and all of it at your finger-tips.  There are many themed displays: the village shop - the tailor and souter (shoemaker) - through the schoolroom to the farm kitchen and milkhouse - and further on the chaumer (living/sleeping area for farm workers).  The Mart Arena houses treasures galore, and in the barn you find horse-drawn implements, vintage tractors and a thrashing mill.

It is evident from the numerous disused limekilns and abandoned workings that the quarrying and burning of limestone to produce lime was a small-scale but widespread local industry, involving every farmer.'

'The Limekilns of Upper Donside - a forgotten heritage'

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Last modified: 01/09/2013