Ayrshire Post – 11 December 2009

Mark Gibson – Countryman of the year

Mark Gibson is a dedicated and caring landowner who has worked ‘above and beyond’ in his successful efforts to restore Craigengillan mansion, Dalmellington, and develop its extensive policies as a successful business and for the benefits of locals and visitors.

This estate perhaps highlights the paradox of land and farm management, which is hard for outsiders to fully understand. First it is a business and has to be run on strict business guidelines, otherwise it will inevitably fail.

Secondly, what people eat does not grow or graze, but needs tremendous dedication, skill and the appliance of science to make it fit for us. This isn’t always understood by people who simply walk into the local supermarket and buy anything they want without giving a second thought to how or where it was produced. We perhaps get our food and clothing too easily without giving any thought to production.

Land management is another area where Craigengillan has been innovative. Mark Gibson sees himself as a guardian of Craigengillan and its environs and believes it is vital to get the balance right between public access for all to care for and enjoy the outstanding scenery and allow farming and forestry to generate income.

He has also worked hard to skillfully develop new paths and provide opportunities for the public to experience an enhanced enjoyment of the land. He also hopes that through that experience and enjoyment, visitors will better understand the countryside and its challenges for farmers and landowners.

Landowners and farmers are ever more ingenious in doing this, especially if they can make some money out of it which any bank manager will tell you is absolutely essential. It is a business and that has to be the over-riding consideration.

On the other hand no one can be a good farmer or landowner who does it simply for money alone. There has to be deep-down love of the land, the animals, wildlife, flora and fauna. More than ever, in tough times for the countryside, it means having a special combination of head and heart and thereby getting the balance right.

When you see that balance in action at places like Craigengillan, where Mark Gibson has been an innovative and caring landowner and farmer, it is impossible not to admire his determination, hard work and commitment. He took over Craigengillan when it was at a low ebb and revitalised the mansion and estate, creating a welcoming environment for visitors.

All who know Mark Gibson were delighted when he was honoured with the well-deserved accolade: Countryman of the year 2009.