Aberdeen city has been identified as the most prosperous City Region economy in Scotland, and one of the most prosperous in the UK (Scottish Enterprise, 2008 p. 2). This is driven by the oil and gas industry; Aberdeen is the port from which North Sea oil rigs are supplied, and several major oil companies have offices in Aberdeen. Aberdeen city has very low levels of unemployment, and has been largely protected from the recession, owing to the high price of oil, which has led to retention of jobs in the oil and gas sector, and related spending in the local economy.

The Aberdeenshire economy is heavily dependent on the Aberdeen economy. The unemployment rate has remained low, approximately 1.4% throughout 2011. (Aberdeenshire Council 2011). Land is held through a mix of owner occupiers, formal tenancies (long term rental agreements), contract farming and short term rental. Aberdeenshire has 9% of Scotland’s land area (517 817 ha) but 26% of the arable land area. In 2007, there were 7122 agricultural holdings, with 4500 occupiers (2000 full time). Aberdeenshire Council estimates that the number of farm businesses is 2900, leading to an average farm business size of 180 ha (440 acres). This number is based on the number of Single Farm Payment recipients. Only 2% of Aberdeenshire’s population is employed in agriculture (Aberdeenshire Council, 2009). Aberdeenshire Council identified an increase in the number of both hobby farms and large commercial units 2003-2007.[1] James Hutton Institute analysis of agricultural census statistics demonstrates that this trend has continued, with both holdings under 10 ha and 10-20 ha increasing in number (2000 – 2011), with a very small increase in holdings over 200 ha. Aberdeenshire is known for its livestock sector, finishing (fattening calves) over one quarter of Scotland’s beef cattle (Aberdeenshire Council 2010).

Aberdeenshire is 6313 km2, comprising approximately 8% of Scotland’s territory (Aberdeenshire Council, 2010). Agriculture is the primary land use in the region, ranging from arable along the coast to marginal grazing in the uplands. There is some forest, mostly small pockets throughout the landscape, more commonly in the hills but trees are still visible in the arable areas. Aberdeenshire has some of the best quality agricultural land in Scotland; farms produce field crops on this land (primarily barley, wheat, oilseed rape), as well as grazing cattle and sheep. The land is too far north (i.e. temperatures are not warm enough) for it to be commercially viable to produce maize.

Please follow the links below to see findings from the research we conducted

On-farm renewable energy

Lifestyle land management and Small farms in Scotland

Formal farmer colaboration through machinery rings.

The second stage of farmpath looks at 'future visions' of agriculture in Aberdeenshire. See here for more information.

To see the leaflet click here

[1]The most recent Aberdeenshire documents are from 2009, but relate to statistics from 2003-2007. While this is somewhat helpful, commodity prices for beef and cereals were low in that period and have since increased, which will have a major impact on agricultural trends. However, the James Hutton Institute has access to agricultural census statistics up to 2011, so have been able to do analysis directly based on those.