“To plough and sow, to reap and mow, my father bred me early, o.”
In 1921 Charles and Gilbert (Uncle Bert) Mackenzie purchased Cullisse Farm at Nigg, having previously farmed with their father, Alexander, at Bindal by Portmahomack at the other end of the Fearn peninsula. Charles and Bert farmed Cullisse, Old Shandwick and Broomton farms together for over 50 years, growing oats, barley, potatoes and turnips, as well as rearing sheep and building up a prize winning herd of pedigree Aberdeen Angus Cattle, with family stud names such as Blackbird, Betty Black and Gyspy Fairy, which became world renowned.
Charles and Isobel’s sons, Kenneth and Gregor, inherited the farms in 1974, farming together until 1995 when Gregor, along with his wife Liz and their young family, emigrated to New Zealand to farm in North Canterbury on the South Island.
Kenneth and Elizabeth and their sons – Peter, Robert and Kenneth – now farm Cullisse, Cadboll and Old Shandwick as a family partnership. Kenneth (Snr) and Peter are the day-to-day farmers, taking care of the planting, growing, harvesting and marketing of their crops – which include winter and spring barley (for malting), wheat, oilseed rape (for Robert) and potatoes (for Brunton Farms) – and the rearing of their herd of Limousin/Angus cross suckler cows (the pedigree herd having been sold in the 1980’s).
In 2006 Robert visited a Farm Africa charity project in the small village of Kitui, located a few hours North East of Nairobi in Kenya. Farm Africa had funded the purchase of a cold pressing machine for the community and it was operated by a lady called Tina who demonstrated the simplicity of the cold pressing process by gently crushing sunflower seeds farmed by other members of the community. The dark ‘crude’ oil was filtered through a simple muslin bag producing a delicious, golden oil, which could then be readily used for cooking or sold at the market, providing much needed additional income to help send eager-to-learn children to school.
Robert (who was at the time studying law at the University of Edinburgh after completing a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture degree) was, at that moment, inspired to start cold pressing the rapeseed grown by the family back in Scotland. At the time there were a few producers of cold pressed rapeseed oil in England but the family weren’t entirely convinced by the diversification idea and Robert still had a few more years of legal studies to complete. He kept an eye on the growing market for cold pressed rapeseed oil, but as he began to see more and more producers springing up around the UK and celebrity chefs talking about the great culinary and health benefits of using cold pressed rapeseed oil, he wondered whether he had missed his chance.
Then came the banking crisis and the recession, and with them a dramatic fall in job opportunities within the legal profession. Robert seized the moment and headed back to the farm to set up his cold pressing business and to re-establish “Cullisse” as a name known around the world.