My family has farmed at Stagehall Farm just outside the village of Stow for three generations, during which we have planted almost twenty small woodlands.
Growing up as a farmer’s son, I was of course used to working on the farm from a young age but I was to take a break from agriculture to pursue a career as a professional rugby player. Playing for Gala RFC and the Border Reivers before ending my playing career with the Exeter Chiefs.
I returned to Stow in 2012 and instead of coming back to farm, I was keen to establish a new business venture which made the most of our natural resources and space, whilst also supporting the farm at the same time. With the huge growth in green energy sources and sales of modern wood burning stoves at an all-time high, I realised that there was a good business opportunity in sourcing and supplying top quality firewood here in the Borders.
Many of the woods on the farm provide shelter for our cattle and sheep, while also providing a rich habitat for a diverse range of animal species and plant life. The woodlands also provide a renewable source of wood fuel that we plan to increasingly use for our timber supply at Borders Firewood. All of the timber we buy in is sourced locally and from well managed sustainable woodlands or from FSC approved suppliers. We are proud that our Borders Hardwood is all sourced and cut within 30 miles of the farm, in fact, 100 per cent of our Softwood is from right here on the farm. Our Borders Hardwood contains a mixture of seasoned Ash, Oak, Sycamore, Birch and Beech. All lovely hardwoods that are known for their excellent heat output and long burn time.
Whilst other suppliers might be able to supply purely Ash or an Oak and Birch mix, this firewood does tend to be imported from eastern Europe where the forests lend themselves to the large scale and dense production of one species. But because we source our wood sustainably here in the Borders, our firewood is a natural mix of quality hardwoods from local woodland maintenance and clearings.
The summer of 2015 saw the installation of a Biomass boiler on the farm, heating four properties and our own specially designed kiln, this has further improved our green business credentials and has helped us to further expand our product range. Utilising chipped low grade softwood the boiler now runs exclusively using timber from our farm.
I am delighted to say that Borders Firewood has gone from strength to strength and in early 2017 we purchased a new market leading firewood processor, built here in the UK along with a custom made automated loading rack that was built in Pathhead by Stanley Drobinski. This investment was made possible with support from The European Agriculture Fund for Rural Development, this programme will enable us to increase our output and help us to build sufficient stocks so that we can continue to grow and provide our customers with top quality homegrown firewood. We have also been supported by the LEADER programme who have supported us in creating a full time role for our new employee Wullie as well as helped with our training. The LEADER programme has been instrumental in our growth and has allowed us to plan for the future to ensure that we can provide the best possible service for our customers throughout the Borders and Midlothian.
It is wonderful to be back working on the family farm, albeit in a slightly different role than I might have originally anticipated! We are also delighted to be able to source, cut, dry, pack and deliver top quality firewood from right here in the heart of the Scottish Borders to our loyal and growing customer base.
I look forward to suppling firewood from the Borders to the Borders and beyond for many, many years to come.