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Aussie 'human dynamo' is named Young Crofter of the Year after falling in love with Highlands and taking over a tearoom at Elphin

By Caroline McMorran

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AN ex-mining engineer from Australian has dug deep to make a huge impression on a remote community in her beloved Highlands.

Helen O'Keefe emigrated in 2015 after falling in love with the north-west Highlands while on holiday in Scotland in 2012 and 2014.f

The former mining engineer now living in Elphin has been named as the Scottish Crofting Federation's Young Crofter of the Year.

Award winner Helen O'Keefe has established a flock of nearly 100 Shetland sheep. A portion of the flock are crossed with a Beltex ram.
Award winner Helen O'Keefe has established a flock of nearly 100 Shetland sheep. A portion of the flock are crossed with a Beltex ram.

A graduate of the West Australian School of Mines, she previously worked at Kalgoorlie and then with a mining consultancy company in Perth.

With the help of her mum,Ann, Ms O'Keefe bought the Elphin Tearooms, a neighbouring house and the surrounding in land in 2017.

Since then she has gone from strength to strength, establishing a flock of 100 Shetland sheep and selling breeding and store lambs, mutton, fleeces and yarn.

She produces and sells eggs, fruit and vegetables and set up the successful online food hub The Green Bowl, offering meat, vegetables and fruit from growers in Elphin, Ullapool, Coigach and Assynt.

She serves the township as grazings clerk and participates in training events and the Women in Crofting network as well as being a Soil Association Scottish Farmer Ambassador.

Scottish Crofting Federation chairman Donald MacKinnon described Ms O'Keefe as a "human dynamo" and said it was an inspiration to see young folk like her undertaking such a wide variety of activities on their crofts.

Ms O'Keefe was chosen from a shortlist of three by judges representing the Federation, the McRobert Trust and the Crofting Commission.

Trust chief executive Chris Hockley said: "I am particularly delighted that Helen has won the award. She has such energy and determination and has achieved so much in her short time in crofting. She is a truly worthy winner."

Ms O'Keefe said she was honoured to win the award and thanked the judges and her community.

"It's great that the Scottish Crofting Federation has this award to showcase the work of young crofters and help inspire other young people to pursue crofting as a career," she said.

"I couldn't have achieved this award without help and support from my township."

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