BREXIT – the word we hear over and over again – but what actually is it? What does this mean to me as a Scottish Young Farmer? asks Ben McClymont, chairman of Lower Nithsdale YFC.

Well, Brexit is talked about a great deal in farming circles, on the news and in the papers and rightly so! I feel the biggest fear of Brexit to many people, is the fear of the unknown and the changes that will come after the UK leaves the EU. 

But, should we fear it? My answer would be no – it’s happening so let’s embrace it and move forward.

I recently attended the Agri Rural Affairs Brexit panel night, which had some excellent speakers, but I still left there thinking nobody really knows what is going to happen. One member said Brexit could be the ‘Perfect storm for Scottish agriculture’ which I think is very true; it will be a challenging time to be in the industry but if people can adapt and adopt future opportunities then I think we will all be in a better place. 

It was reported that Brexit will witness farmers quitting agriculture, which will hopefully bring about possible opportunities for new entrants to get into the industry. Which leads me onto new entrants.

I recently turned 21, which started to make me think where I want to go with my life and what I want to be doing. I am currently studying and I am half way through my third year of my agricultural degree at SRUC Edinburgh, and I plan to study for my honours year. 

The question I keep asking myself is, what do I want to do when I finish my studies? Firstly, travelling, see a bit of the world and how other countries cope with different challenges within their agricultural industries. But then the question arises (that I don’t have the answer to) what will I do when I come back to Scotland, which I most likely will as I feel my heart lies here and as a ‘Doonhamer’ I will come back, ‘doon hame’! 

So, as a new entrant what are the opportunities for me here? I attended the New Entrants to Agriculture conference recently and Fergus Ewing informed us there are numerous tenancies available, although I don’t know if I truly believe him. He did state to us that he is committed to new entrants and young farmers within Scotland, which was reassuring to hear. 

Another aspect of Mr Ewing’s speech that was promising to hear was the creation of the new group FONE, (Farming Opportunities For New Entrants) which sets out to source publicly owned land, that can be utilised by new entrant farmers. 

Out of all the things Mr Ewing has said, he is a politician and I feel that what he has said has to be taken with a pinch of salt, as often – in my humble opinion – I feel politicians just say what we would like to hear, just to keep people happy and to gain votes. 

However, I do feel there are immense opportunities for the future within the industry in Scotland. With the average age of farmers being 58 years of age, they cannot go on forever and not all farmers have a next generation willing to take on the farm. 

So, therefore, there are bound to be openings for young people to access farms – be that contract farming agreements, share farming, or, hopefully, even proper farm tenancies becoming available. 

One issue that was highlighted in last week’s issue of The Scottish Farmer was the mental wellbeing of people within the rural sector. This is something I feel strongly about – people need to start talking about mental health and thinking of each other. 

SAYFC has launched its campaign last year of ‘Are ewe okay?’, which I feel is excellent, although there is still a lot more to be done. I feel social media doesn’t help. People say we are in touch all the time because of it, but are we really? Social media can portray a very different image to what is actually the case. 

A simple 'phone call or a chat, a set of ears to listen, regularly with people to break the isolation of working alone. After a very recent tragedy close to home in both distance and personal reasons, something that has been circulated around is the quote: “It’s okay not to be okay”!

One of the more positive aspects of SAYFC is the international travel programme, which gives huge amounts of possibilities for members to travel around the world. Being able to travel internationally is an opportunity that I think every member of SAYFC should be applying for, as you can learn so much from sharing other cultures. 

I have been fortunate enough to be selected to attend the China adventure trip which I am thoroughly looking forward to, as I have little knowledge of China, its culture and it will be exciting to see the ever-expanding Chinese economy and agricultural industry. One thing that I am slightly wary about, is what I am going to eat, as I’m a traditional meat and two veg kind of guy! I now have the local Chinese takeaway on speed dial! 

Anyone that is fortunate enough to travel with SAYFC I feel should be going on it with their eyes wide open, bringing back knowledge and exchanging it with other members so we can all learn together. Also, by travelling abroad it gives people the chance to socialise with people world-wide, make life-long friends and be an ambassador for the Scottish rural community. 

Throughout my ramblings here I have spoken about opportunities over and over again, so if I can finish on anything it would be to bring back the saying ‘YOLO’–you only live once. So let’s grab every opportunity by the horns and make the most of them – it’s your life, nobody knows what’s around the corner!