Iknew there’d be tears, but I didn’t realise just how many people would be welling up with emotion. The remarkable story of two sisters from Shetland who took on the running of the family farm after their father’s sudden death has moved just about everyone. Kirsty and
Aimee Budge proved just what exceptional young women they are when their dad, Bryden, was killed in a farming accident in 2014. At the time Kirsty was 21-years-old and Aimee was just 17, but despite their grief and the daunting task ahead of them, the girls decided to take on the management of the 750 acre mixed farm that had been in the family for more than 150 years.
I visited them at home and filmed them as they went around ear-tagging calves, moving sheep and maintaining fences; jobs they took in their stride, totally unfazed by our cameras and microphones. Kirsty had been training to be a teacher, but she told me that the practical realities of running the farm soon hit home. ‘After our dad’s death the farm really helped us because you had to get up, get on with it and feed the animals. They were relying on us, there was no chance of us moping around.’
It’s easy to forget just how tough farming in Shetland can be. It’s about as far north as it’s possible to get in the
United Kingdom, and while the landscape is stunning, farms are isolated and the winter weather is unforgiving. But as if taking the reins of Bigton Farm wasn’t enough, the sisters have also stepped up to help fellow farmers and local producers make the very best of their businesses. Kirsty and Aimee run Shetland’s only monitor farm, which means they host regular meetings and hold demonstrations for other farmers and crofters to share their knowledge about everything from successful lambing to the best ways of encouraging young people in to agriculture. The sisters have even shown off their newly-bought Shorthorn bull to their colleagues and neighbours.
It all made them very deserving and inspiring winners of this year’s Countryfile Farming
Heroes Award, which was announced at an impressive prize-giving ceremony in Bristol City Hall. The girls were joined on stage by their sister Hannah and mum Helen, who told the audience just how proud their dad would have been. And that’s when the tears started. It was a truly touching moment for guests, hosts and audience members alike. Although if anybody asks, I’m telling them I had something in my eye that night.
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