Some 10,500 acres of Clan Donald Lands Trust’s Estate is held in crofting tenure, a form of land tenure and small-scale food production unique to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. Crofting is important socially and culturally as its practice of common working helps to bind communities together and keep traditions alive.
It evolved through the turbulent history of the 18th and 19th century Highlands and Islands, as the crofts, small portions of land, helped to sustain a rapidly growing population. As well as efficiently using land, crofting employs traditional methods of land improvement and management, and animal husbandry, making it environmentally sustainable.
The main produce of a typical croft is lamb or beef, which is often sold on to Lowland farmers for fattening and finishing, which are not cost-effective on the west coast due to climatic and soil conditions. Some crofters now increasingly diversify into horticulture, producing a wide range of seasonally available fruits, vegetables and plants. These products can be sourced locally through Skye’s Foodlink scheme www.tastelocal.co.uk Interest in forestry, woodlands and renewable energy is also growing.
Most crofts cannot support a family or give full-time employment, so most tenants have other occupations to provide the main part of their income. Many crofters are involved in small-scale tourism running holiday cottages and here in Sleat some crofters work as postmen, ferry men, teachers and furniture builders.
For further information on crofting, please visit the Scottish Crofting Federation website www.crofting.org