By Jennifer Veitch

As National Young Farmer Member of the Year, being asked to write an opinion article for such an influential and industry centred magazine at the heart of many farmers Fridays, has caused me to go back and forwards as to what to write about - finding a balance between public interest and personal importance.

Growing up on a dairy farm in the West of Scotland, farming has always been at the epicentre of my world. Helping my dad out on the farm, we have grown in size with passion for pedigrees, cow families and a view to optimising technical efficiency; having set up a new dairy unit in October 2014.

Studying near home at SRUC, Ayr, meant I could still work part-time on the family farm, utilising my learnings at home practically. After three years, I graduated in June 2018 with a degree in Agriculture at Glasgow University. Remaining in the agricultural field, I now currently work as a sales assistant at Tarff Valley Agricultural Merchants based at Dundonald.

Whilst farmers in Scotland were already feeling demoralised, reading about low farm gate prices, the ill-informed welfare lobby and increasing levels for compliance by milk buyers, along comes Covid to give us another shove into the deep end with no sight of life jackets to give some sort of security and reassurance as to when things were going to be okay.

Coronavirus has affected people individually in different ways but within the humble community of Scottish Young Farmers, we all shared the same loss of interaction, competition, fun and generally anything to look forward to. Being crowned member of the year in February, I myself have missed out on so many once in a lifetime opportunities. One of them being presenting the Young Farmers prizes at the Highland show, something which I was greatly looking forward to.

As we headed into lockdown all plans for stock judging’s, charity events, Ayrshire rally and even club concerts had to be cancelled leaving many of us devastated. As if technology was not already important to us ‘young yins’, it has become something we all had to become more savvy about. Zoom calls, face times, mobile banking, online shopping… the list gets longer.

I would assume anyone reading this magazine now will in some way have been forced to adapt to this new normal whether it be speaking to loved ones through the laptop or simply getting used to life without the things we’d taken for granted such as eating out or heading to the market to find out the latest gossip. It’s been a massive change for us all; some changes which are here to stay. Although, it can only be assuring we are all in this together.

The Scottish Association of Young Farmers is an immense community of young people. It offers vast opportunities to develop skills, work with local communities, travel and compete in various competitions which promote learning, discussion and improving social skills. It offers support and relief to young people working within agriculture and the countryside.

We must ensure the future of Young Farmers is secure where participation is encouraged from all regions. This is becoming more and more important ensuring members are made aware of what they can get from their membership and the reality of what life would be without Young Farmers.

Looking towards next year, I would like to challenge members to try something that does not instantly appeal to them, or that they don’t believe they have the ability to do. If being part of Young Farmers has taught me anything, it’s that taking the easy option clearly isn’t as valuable as pushing yourself out with your comfort zone and taking that opportunity.

I hope when things can return to how they were, we look at Young Farmers differently and realise what we have in front of us. Many of us have the organisation to thank for the friends we have today and social opportunity it has given, something which many of us enjoy the most.

It is important to give back to a club which gives so much to you. After all, the little things like supporting events and making that little bit more effort make a huge difference. Young farmers isn’t like any other school club or sports club, there’s no expectation or judgement with everyone having the same chance. Giving things a go doesn’t change anything, but you’ll never know how good or bad you might be at something unless you try.

So my final message to all young farmers is to realise the opportunities. Imagine a life without Young Farmers. Perhaps until Covid you did not realise what a huge part of our lives it is. Coronavirus has taught us to be thankful for what we have, for the opportunities available to us through Young Farmers, and how important it is to support your club and the association.