Surviving as a Young Farmer within the agricultural industry is proving to be a more difficult challenge, however, Jenny Baillie, of the Scottish Association of Young Farmers’ Clubs, is determined to ensure that the next generation have a strong support system and guiding hand within SAYFC.

Jenny spoke with Kathryn Dick:

Can you tell me a bit about your background in agriculture?

A dairy farmer’s daughter who’s learning to like sheep!

What has your career path been like and what’s your key message from it?

In turning the youthful age of 18, I was employed by the Scottish Association of Young Farmers’ Clubs. It’s been a whirlwind of nine years since for me, having dipped my toes into land agency before returning to where my passion lies – the most unique youth organisation in Scotland I know of!

Physically, it’s taken me everywhere from Blackpool to Orkney – but from simply meeting and chatting to people from different organisations and areas, it’s opened doors to all sorts!

There’s a healthy and vibrant industry out there which Young Farmers are helping to advocate! It’s exciting as anyone can be an influencer, if given the chance!

Groups like SAYFC’s Rural and Agri-Affairs, the Next Generation committee within NFUS, plus Quality Meat Scotland’s Lambassadors provide just that, the chance to influence!

So take 10 minutes at your tea-break when you’re wellie socks are drying – and reply to that NFUS survey or consultation, or send your thoughts to your local councillor, MSP or MP! Invite them out!

What does your job entail and what do you love about it most?

Learning some new roads as I’m now responsible for the East Region of SAYFC.

In managing our ‘Are Ewe Okay’ campaign, access to services are highlighted to members plus the steps to take for self-support in everything from stress management to physical health!

Young Farmers needs to be fully inclusive – a place to release expression, boost personal development, confidence and friendships.

Advocating that, and the importance of upholding positive club reputation, is what I love most about my job!

How do you think organisations like SAYFC help young people in agriculture?

SAYFC is member-led and that includes the decisions made! It drives ambition in our members, whether they be 14 or 30 and accelerates influence.

We ‘feed’ the learners, increase their confidence with each passing year – and enable them to become effective contributors!

We’ve had members in the last year win the NFU Mutual ‘Inspirational Young Person’ Award; Holstein UK’s ‘President’s Medal Award’; ‘Young Gamekeeper of The Year’ from the Scottish Game Fair and a past member in preparation to take on the chair role for Oxford Farming Conference!

Any organisation that takes your hand and helps you to become your best self should be commended and we are lucky to have an abundance in Scotland.

Our members are becoming increasingly more inspired to host politicians, influencers and local community to their family businesses or farms – fully showcasing their business savvy and ability to make successful practical judgements.

It’s sharing time for young people; to promote low carbon agricultural practices or productivity and innovation as we sail into a new decade with one big green economy target!

To slash Scotland’s emissions by 75% in the next ten years – a togetherness approach is one which I’d hope the next generation warm to, sooner rather than later!

We remain one of the most sustainable places in the world to produce beef and lamb and organisations, like ourselves and many others in the industry, are working together to encourage a powerful collaborated agricultural voice to be heard.

Have you witnessed a change in the mental health of farmers and the attitude towards it?

Dark days have forever been around, with our predecessors too!

In my mind, it must be something to do with how caring and compassionate our people are for their business, stock, future and their pride.

Not everyone would agree, but I like to think of farming as a progressive industry. With that, should come a more open conversation, yes.

However, there are so many workshops, conferences and meetings holding a similar ethos – ‘Creating resilience and a stronger rural industry’.

For those attending, to have that inner business progression ‘fire’ burning is brilliant, but consideration is key when highlighting own successes.

Not everyone feels resilient or strong which I’m sure RSABI can vouch – don’t be that hammer to a cracking wall.

You are an advocate of the Scottish Land Matching Service, how does it encourage the next generation to get involved in agriculture?

Ian Davidson mentioned in Argyll, recently, that one-to-one meetings have been taking place since September’s launch to ‘find the right fit’ amongst those interested parties – which is a joy to hear when issues in the arrangements for accessing land are clearly present and when many arrangements are being agreed off the radar.

In its initial development, similar services in other countries were researched, highlighting the opportunity within Scotland’s farming to get people talking if nothing else!

A quote by John A Shedd: “A ship is safe in harbour, but that’s not what ships are for.”

It’s not a bad thing to share the risks sometimes and if these ventures conjure up the right level of trust, then it could breed confidence in their farming from combining the expertise of the older with the drive and enthusiasm of the young (whatever ‘old’ and ‘young’ actually mean).

Any farmer who’s built their business decade by decade – who has the land and resources but not the succession – or who has realised the need to slow down a tad, I couldn’t encourage you more to get in touch with Ian.

What has been the best and worst piece of advice you have received?

Best – ‘Stare at the judge’ in old dairy showmanship days! Goes back to influence and can be adapted in any walk of life, ha ha!

Worst – ‘Just keep going!’ Not helpful when you’ve had a massive wardrobe malfunction during a Young Farmer’s concert performance!

Do you see any downsides in Scotland’s local farming communities?

Everyone’s in it for themselves here.

A French man, working at neighbouring farms, often tells me about their sharing arrangements back home, referring to tillage and harvesting equipment, as well as labour.

It’s a different manner here, but I’ve always wondered what would be like if we could encourage this more locally. Labour is a tricky one, though!

Agricultural employment is arguably not the trendiest one and today’s one-man-band is now farming more land with more stock than what’s ever been required of him before!

Tireless farmers battling not just the elements, mental health and making ends meet – but their ever-growing workload.

So non-collaborative mind-sets and the mighty workloads are two downsides I see within our local farming communities.

Have you got any hobbies?

Planning a June wedding aka a ‘warning – farmers are letting their hair down’ bash in the Fintry Hills!

What has been your biggest achievement?

Now, I should say Avondale winning West Talent Spot, in 2012, or performing on the Hydro stage – but focusing my work to Argyll and the Isles (including Arran) for six months overrides most!

It felt like the time to invest effort into both setting up new and reviving formerly strong clubs that had fallen into abeyance.

It didn’t take an awful lot, these areas already knew that social networking was crucial for bringing isolated individuals together to forge friendships which last a lifetime – they just needed a guiding hand for a bit.

How welcoming and intriguing the most remote located are. It still flabbergasts me!

But, SAYFC’s guiding hand is always there and can be asked for at any point.

What’s your favourite tipple at the RHS?

A lucky dip in someone’s kist!