Celebrity crofter Donald ‘Sweeney’ MacSween is to get a huge lift on his croft in Ness, after winning a year’s use of a big tractor designed to move over a ton in weight.

Sweeney has been announced today (Tuesday 28 April) as one of three winners of the Up to Speed scheme run by New Holland Agriculture, together with the Prince's Countryside Fund. He’s to have the use of a New Holland telehandler for a year, an enormous boost to his business.

The Up to Speed scheme provides cutting-edge machinery to young people, new entrants, or those who will make a difference in their local community but would otherwise not have access to this type of farm machinery.

Early this year the Prince's Countryside Fund entered into a partnership with New Holland, a major British tractor manufacturer. Nearly 50 farmers across the UK applied to the scheme for one of three items of big business equipment on offer for a year’s loan.

Now a full-time crofter with a sideline in TV appearances – both on his own croft and as a presenter for sheep dog trials – Sweeney said he was ‘over the moon’ at the news that he was one of those picked as a winner.

He said: "I have been looking at having a telehandler for a while now because I need something that can lift a ton. When Lewis Crofters delivers feed and other supplies we have to manhandle it, which has not been ideal during the Covid-19 crisis. 

“On my own I couldn’t afford anything other than a tractor and the one I have is a 40-year-old Massey Ferguson which can lift smaller quantities.

“This couldn’t have come at a better time. With no football and no tourists this year I am going to have much more time for improving the croft, spreading hen manure and sand from the beach to raise the Ph of the land.

“The longer the lockdown goes on, the more key crofting becomes to our local economy. I’m producing eggs and meat for the local market and this will make such a difference to me and my neighbours."

Sweeney's existing 40-year-old tractor collecting sand from the beach


 The new model of New Holland telehandler which Sweeney will have on loan for a year