Our founder, Donnie Macleod comes from a crofting background on the island of Raasay, near the Isle of Skye. When he was 5, his family moved to Glenelg on the west coast of Scotland. He believes growing up in a small west coast community helped shape his way of thinking.
In a Press & Journal feature March 2015 he said “There’s a saying: ‘Give me a child until he is seven and I will show you the man’ and looking back I think that was the case in Glenelg. The crofting community worked collectively and was self-sufficient. As children we saw that we were part of the community and valued, but also saw that the community was part of the environment. If you destroy the environment you destroy the community and ultimately yourself. That kind of mentality developed in the west coast, not through altruism but for survival. Everyone was dependent on everyone else and dependent on the environment”.
Donnie left Glenelg when he was 12 to attend Inverness Royal Academy and later attended Aberdeen University where he studied forestry. As farming was always his calling, during his free time he worked alongside his father at Glenelg and later Glenmoriston. However, after university, supporting a growing family, he worked for many years in the financial services industry, working all over the UK as senior management in Stuart, Wise & Ogilvie and General Accident. Outside work, he was an environmental activist and supporter of Greenpeace.
1998, after retiring from financial services, Donnie moved north from Edinburgh to help his father at ‘Kylerona’ the 120 acre family farm at Ardersier. Taking over the farm, Donnie converted it to organic status and started a small box scheme delivering to a group of householders keen on green issues. With help from his daughter Morven and son Stevie, the business grew and over the years had, at various times, cattle, pigs, hens and a cafe. Volunteers were accommodated to help with the packing, outdoor work and occasionally the Farmers markets. This meant living with 6 volunteers at a time from all over the world, recruited through WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) and HelpX. This added an international element and a sense of a wider community to the busy business. News networks, schools, environmental groups and individuals often sought Donnie’s advice and opinion inviting him to speak on current events and the importance of growing organic.
In a Press & Journal article, July 1999, Donnie said ‘I feel that, from an environmental background, the miles involved in the current distribution of food is wasteful and unsustainable in the long-term, so the ultimate aim is to have, not only people eating organic produce to improve their health, but to have the Highland agricultural community producing organic food for local consumption and exporting the excess to the hungry mouths in London, Edinburgh and Glasgow.”.
Throughout the world, the movement towards organic methods of food production has seen a steady growth over the last few years. The European Union, in particular, has made spectacular growth with Austria and Germany forecast to have 10% of their arable land converted within the next two years.”
Currently, 80% of all organic food sold in the UK is imported and when one considers that one of the aims of the movement is to have food produced and consumed locally, there is a very large market waiting for those producers that lead the way.”
Instrumental in founding HIOA (Highlands & Islands Organic Association) providing organic consumers, growers and producers a network with other parts of Scotland. The first meeting was held at Kylerona.
Macleod Organics were fundamental in setting up the Inverness Farmers Market and other markets in the area.
2002, Donnie became the so-called GM martyr when he strongly opposed genetically modified crop trials on The Black Isle. He served 10 days of a 21 day jail sentence for the GM cause and he eventually cleared his name. However, the publicity around the case resulted in him becoming internationally known and invited abroad to events such as the 2004 ‘Terra Madre’ in Turin, Italy.
In the same year, Donnie met Sheena who started volunteering on the farmers market stalls and worked as the HIGP membership secretary for a few years to 2010. Sheena and Donnie became life partners with Sheena continuing to help at the farmers markets, as well as helping with the sheep, Macleod Organics office work and managing the volunteers.
During this time, HIGP (Highlands & Islands Green Party) became a large part of Donnie’s life with him standing as a candidate several times over the years to come.
2009, daughter Morven moved to the farm with her partner Uwe Brandstatter including Donnie’s grandchildren Katie and Billy. Annamarie and Alastair, were later born on the farm.
2012, Donnie’s son Stevie, his wife Miho and daughter Hanako moved to Japan for three years.
In the Press & Journal feature March 2015, Donnie said “Ideally we want people to eat what’s grown in the Highlands but have to accept that people want lemons, bananas and tomatoes all year round. The concept we took was giving customers an alternative to the big supermarkets. We can offer these foods but they will be organically grown and certified and supporting a farmer and grower”.
2016, daughter Isla moved to the farm with her family including Donnie’s grandchildren Kirsty, Finlay and Angus.
2020 February, Donnie and Sheena said farewell to their last volunteer, moved into Kylerona farm house and retired from accommodating volunteers, working farmers markets and rearing sheep.
August 3rd, Donnie’s son Stevie, his wife Miho and their daughter Hanako moved back to the farm from Livingston, near Edinburgh. Stevie worked in the business off and on for many years and met Miho when she volunteered as a WWOOFer.
Sadly, on the 30th August, Stevie died having lived with a brain tumour for many years.
Miho now works in Macleod Organics Ltd.
Donnie is still at the centre of life here, continuing to manage Macleod Organics Ltd and Kylerona Farm Partnership.
Life continues to roll on in it’s own organic way