MY NAME is Annabel Baker and in case you’re sitting there wondering, “What farm is she from?” I actually don’t come from a farming background, nor was I born in Scotland ... but in Surrey.

I moved to Fife with my family when I was four years old and have lived here ever since. When I was approached to write an article for Scotland’s biggest farming newspaper, I jumped at the chance. However, I sat on it for a little while as I wasn’t sure where to start, but here goes.

The closest connection to farming my family had was that we had horses, and of course, you need farmers for the feed and bedding. I was, however, older before I took more of an interest in the equestrian side of things, opting instead to do highland dancing for a number of years.

I have been a member of Bell Baxter ADS for 11 years now and in that time I have taken on a number of roles including secretary, taken part in competitions from club to national level and headed off on numerous East Big Weekends away to name just a few activities I’ve taken part in.

Last year, I was delighted to have had the opportunity to be club chairman. It was something I always wanted to do but wasn’t sure I would fit the role because I wasn’t from a farming background.

I first joined Bell Baxter ADS in October, 2009, and was invited to go along to a cabaret practice and have never looked back since. In February, 2020, I took part in my 10th cabaret competition and sang a solo – which I hadn’t ever dared do before.

But, being chairman, I wanted to set a good example for our members and encourage them to push themselves outside their comfort zone. I know I certainly did!

Last year, we recruited over 20 new members which was a great boost to the club and with 12 of them taking to the stage for cabaret, helping the club win the East Region Cabaret competition and were awarded the National Recruitment Prize, which was a fantastic achievement for the club.

I hadn’t really noticed it before and have come to the conclusion that it was because I was the club chairman.

It was interesting the number of people I spoke to who thought I came from a farming background and one particular time sticks in my mind when I introduced myself and the person said “Baker? Which farm are you from?” You don’t have to be a farmer to be a Young Farmer.

I was living the Young Farmers motto: “Not just for those who wear wellies”. Although it may have seemed liked a barrier, it’s something I’m really proud of, because everything I’ve learnt about farming has, for the most part, been because of Young Farmers.

Had I not joined, I wouldn’t have had the knowledge about farming that I do now, I wouldn’t have found out that I was pretty good at lambing (so I’ve been told) or considered doing something like cabaret, or taken part in tug of war which led on to the opportunity to represent Scotland at the British and Irish Championships in 2017.

I’m not sure I’d quite fall into that category now when my fiancé Stephen is a farmer in North Fife with his family, taking annual leave to help out with lambing and going out almost every day for the last six and a half months whilst working from home because of the pandemic.

I do the rounds straight after work with my future mother-in-law, Hilary, checking the sheep and helping out where I can. I was also gifted three pedigree Suffolk ewes as an engagement present from my future in-laws to start my own flock, Rowanlea Suffolks.

Looking back to when I was at school, generally the question seemed to be: “What university are you going to?” I studied Geography with Psychology at university and I wish I had known then what I know now about other opportunities.

I’d like to think I would’ve done a Modern Apprenticeship in Agriculture given the opportunity again. But through my job as Project Co-ordinator at Lantra Scotland, I have travelled all over Scotland, attending career events, promoting careers in Scotland’s land-based, aquaculture and environmental conservation sector.

There are many pre-conceptions of careers in our sector and it’s important to challenge those and ensure that those who influence career choices are aware of what opportunities are available.

I have organised career influencer events attended by teachers, careers advisors, developing the young workforce staff and others with a remit for career guidance to raise the profile of our sector and increase knowledge of the rewarding and positive careers available.

People don’t know what they don’t know. There is a pathway for everyone, whether that be work-based learning or heading to college or university.

First and foremost, SAYFC is a youth organisation with a whole variety of activities, competitions and opportunities for personal development. I can’t think of any other youth organisation that offers such a breadth of opportunities, whether it be arts and crafts, sports, drama, cookery to agri skills, international travel, training and so much more.

It really is true, the more you put in, the more you get out.

I cannot stress enough the benefits that come through joining YFs but also being a member of committees. Whether you’re working in farming or not, the skills you gain are invaluable and will serve you for life. You never know when they may come in handy.

Make the most of it, whether its convening meetings or events, being treasurer and managing the money, organising and liaising with people as secretary or leading as chairman, just do it. It’s also your chance to give back to your club and organisation for which you get so much more out of.

I regret not making the most of the opportunities on offer. I only applied for international travel for the first-time last year and got a place on a trip of a lifetime which unfortunately didn’t run due to insufficient numbers.

However, having applied again this year, I was fortunate enough to get a place on the Rural Youth Europe European Rally Team to Slovenia.

This year I am Fife and Kinross District secretary, committee member of the East Region and International Travel committees and also a member of National Council. It would have been a pretty busy year along with planning a wedding too. Slovenia and the wedding have been put on hold until next year.

Here is what I have to say to members and anyone thinking of joining SAYFC: Make the most of your time in Young Farmers, because it only comes around once.