To establish a small regenerative farm in a wee hanging valley above Loch Ness, with pasture-fed sheep, cattle and geese - and ducks for slug control.
Love of life, biodiversity and sustainability are the motivators to create patchwork habitats and produce meat, fibre, eggs and other goodies.
To work with nature to steward this piece of paradise, feed our community while nurturing the land and ourselves and leave it a little better than we found it.
meet the team
Every member of our team makes an important contribution to the management of the farm, working to enhance its biodiversity, maintain natural cycles and ensure the sustainability of our enterprise.
We are committed to nature-friendly farming, raising healthy animals in healthy ecosystems full of diverse life, and producing nutritious food and useful fibre products.
so we can work with nature
to establish a patchwork of different habitats that suit a diversity of wildlife.
As well as producing goods for sale
we believe it's important to feed ourselves,
so we have a veg garden, orchard and food forest, and we forage for wild food too.
We aim to return as much goodness to the land as we can, composting so-called waste (yes, including human!)
inspired by permaculture and a closed-loop system with a fair share principle.
I came to farming in a slightly unusual way. In 2010, in London, I was looking for a change of career. I'd always loved animals, nature and being outdoors, so I started volunteering at my local city farm. And that was it - I'd found farming! I knew what I wanted to do!
When I was little, I loved scampering around barefoot:
climbing trees, playing in streams, catching frogs and rock pooling. Some of my family had small holdings, where we collected eggs,
got chased by geese, looked after horses, checked the sheep, picked slugs off cabbages and learnt where chicken came from.
Later, I enjoyed tagging along with my boyfriend at lambing time.
As I grew older, I was encouraged to aspire to a ‘proper job'. My choice was forensic pathology - sparked by an admiration for Dana Scully - and in 2006 I was half way through my training when my younger sister died in a car crash. Amongst so many other things, her death made me re-evaluate my life choices, and my passion for forensic medicine waned. Although I persevered for a few more years, my heart wasn't in it, and the commute on my bike became the highlight of my day - away from the sterile and fluorescent world of hospitals. I found the ethics of medicine questionable, and I rarely felt I was saving lives - just prolonging death. Everything seemed artificial and wasteful.
A three-acre plot of land in Stepney rekindled my spirits and transformed my life in a way that seemed magical! The amazing people I met, the connection I felt to the animals, nature and the soil, and the visible benefit to the health and wellbeing of everyone, simply by being in that special space: this was the antidote I needed. I went from being a full-time volunteer to Volunteer Manager to Site Manager over the following six years, and did more and more research on farm animal health, grazing regimes, ecosystem health and agroforestry. But on an open city farm it wasn't possible to farm in the way I wanted, so I took a deep breath and ran away to the Highlands to embark on a rural farming career.
I started out as a volunteer on a few different crofts, working at a bar and crashing with my parents. I loved the surroundings and the people, and I met my wonderful partner Mike - so I decided to settle. Then, after looking for land for about six months, I walked round Achpopuli Farm with Mike and it felt like the right place: I could envisage farming on the principles I believed in, Mike had good memories of boating with his Granda on Loch Laide, and we'd had one of our first dates in the treehouse at the neighbouring Forest Trust. I felt connected to Achpopuli Farm in a soul stirring way and, when my offer was accepted, our farming story began...
I'm committed to working with nature to farm my land, to having lots of native trees, and to letting the ecosystems do what they do best - balance, nurture and restore health to all. Guided by our land, we're increasing diversity in the pasture, planting more trees, making the bog boggier and undraining the fen. For the stock, there is holistic planned grazing, with 100% pasture-fed diets (apart from the ducks - our slug munchers!) and the use of as few pharmaceuticals as possible, which will enable us to build a healthy flerd suited to local conditions, including the harsh weather we sometimes get!
Farming life has its ups and downs, with plenty of learning, but I feel thankful every day that I'm part of this beautiful wild landscape at Achpopuli.
HISTORY OF ACHPOPULI
Pobul :Community gathering place
The name 'Achpopuli' comes from the Gaelic words Achad (field) and Pobul (community gathering place). It's where the summer Sheilings were located in the old days, and where drovers and their cattle stopped to rest along the droving route - which is now the Great Glen Way.
Achpopuli used to be split into Easter and Wester Achpopuli, old steadings that can still be identified from the remnants of their walls. Abriachan was such a large sheep-rearing estate that there used to be a whole day's sale for Abriachan sheep at the Auction Market .
The MacMillan family owned Achpopuli Farm, raising sheep and cattle, from the 1970s until they sold it to me in 2018.
Achpopuli is part of Abriachan, a scattered rural village with a strong community spirit. Neighbouring Abriachan Forest Trust was one of the first Scottish community purchases in 1998, and is a thriving community and educational forest hub.
I've learned the story of the site mostly from the former owner, gleaning other bits and pieces from local tales and internet research. If I've got anything wrong or you have any morsels to add to this summary I'd LOVE to hear from you!