About The Sailean Project
Sailean is a 75 acre croft on the tiny Inner Hebridean Isle of Lismore, itself only 10 miles long. Nestled in the waters of Loch Linnhe, at the mouth of the Great Glen, Lismore enjoys a bit of protection from the elements and, known for its fertile land, there’s little surprise to discover Lismore (Lios Mòr) derives from the Gaelic ‘Great Garden’.
Roger & Gilly moved here in 2004 and after an epiphany began to try out a ‘new’ way of managing the land in 2015, having farmed ‘the other way’ in an earlier lifetime. Dave & Alison joined the team in January 2020, with a view to sharing the load, being part of the change and spreading the word.
Our farm might be small, but we have big ideas!
Holistic Management: We manage the farm ‘holistically’, meaning that we consider that every element of the farm is interlinked and that includes the people as well as the land and animals. Any action or decision we make in one area has an impact on every other area.
Regenerative Agriculture: Most importantly our small corner of the world is a part of the bigger ‘whole’ that is planet Earth – and that is why Regenerative Agriculture is an essential part of what we do at Sailean.
We employ grazing practices that rebuild soil health, improve the water cycle, increase biodiversity above and below the surface, and combat climate change.
In essence, we’re working with nature, not against her.
It all starts with the soil. Without soil we have no plants and therefore no food. Even more importantly, the process of photosynthesis, in which plants use the energy from the sun to convert carbon dioxide and water into food and release oxygen back into the atmosphere, is essential for all life on earth.
Unfortunately, over time, conventional farming practices have depleted both the nutritional and structural quality of the soil.
Here’s how we do things differently:
The grass in our paddocks is never grazed short, and has lots of time to recover, so the plants can concentrate on putting down strong root systems and support the regrowth of underground ecosystems which draw down carbon from the atmosphere.
The ground is fertilised naturally. The animals provide that service as they wander! The manure they produce, plus the foliage they trample into the soil, decomposes to create more organic matter to boost the growth of topsoil. Carbon is stored in this underground organic matter, while it supports stronger, healthier plants above ground.
The improved root structure and diversity underground also manages rainwater more efficiently, locking it in the ground to sustain life during dry periods and preventing water running off and washing topsoil with it.
Healthier soil supports greater species diversity above ground that creates a natural balance so we don’t need to ‘control’ everything with chemical herbicides, fungicides or pesticides, thus keeping these out of the food chain and water cycle.
Meat has had a pretty bad rap recently, especially beef. But it’s important to remember that the scary statistics about environmental impact are based on cattle raised in huge ‘feed lots’, fed on a diet of grain and soy, harvested from vast swathes of cleared forest, with a goal of the cattle reaching their finishing weight as quickly as possible.
We do things differently! Our animals are essential to everything we aspire to at Sailean. Without their contribution, we could not improve the soil or biodiversity anywhere near as efficiently. Our animals are helping to make a positive difference to our carbon footprint.
We believe that raising animals on the diet for which they evolved, and at a natural pace of growth is the ethical choice. They are part of our ‘whole’ and their welfare is paramount. Growth hormones and the routine use of antibiotics are never a part of our animal husbandry.
100% Grass-fed Cattle & Sheep
Our cattle and sheep graze together as one ‘flerd’ (a combined flock and herd!) They are fed only their natural diet of grasses and other foliage such as clover and wild-flowers.
The flerd is moved daily onto fresh ground so, while helping to regenerate the soil, they always have access to the most nutritious vegetation.
The pasture never comes into contact with artificial fertilisers or other chemicals, and the animals are allowed to grow at their natural pace.
Pasture Raised Chickens
Our chickens live outdoors, so they can move freely to forage and scratch as nature intended. We ensure they have shelter from the elements and from natural predators, as well as giving them night-time perches on which to roost.
The chickens are also moved daily (with their shelter and perches) to fresh pasture where they supplement their diet with grass, seeds, insects and worms they find while they scratch about.
This regular movement ensures they are never sitting on fouled (or fowled, ha ha!) ground, where the build-up of ammonia in static sheds can be a major cause of health issues amongst more conventionally farmed chicken.
Our concern for their welfare is such that we are trained and equipped to slaughter our birds on farm, to keep their end of life experience as stress-free as possible.
It makes sense that animals who have themselves lived a healthy, stress-free life and been fed on a natural, nutrient-rich diet, will produce meat that is equally nutrient-dense. Grass-fed beef and lamb has been shown to have higher levels of vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids and dietary protein.
It also makes health sense to choose meat that has not been tainted by chemicals, growth hormones or routine use antibiotics.
But of course, animals that have been raised and fed in the healthiest way possible also produce the tastiest meat – so it’s the best choice all round!