I AM now a few weeks away from ending my stint as honorary president of SAYFC. Being involved for four years, two as vice president and two as president is a good length of time to get to know the people involved, understand the dynamics of the board and offer advice when required.

There always seems to be a steady supply of people who have done their bit for club and district and are still keen to give more at regional and national level to ensure that this great movement continues to prosper. The board still is mainly filled with enthusiastic and passionate young people much the same I suspect as it was in 1989, when I was national chairman.

As with many organisations Covid has had a severe effect on young farmers. Clubs have worked really hard and have often been imaginative in holding either virtual meetings or socially distanced gatherings when restrictions have permitted.

However, competitions often provide the focus for club efforts and more importantly a reason for members to pay their club membership. Sadly this year it has been impossible to organise most of the competitions members enjoy particularly all those at the Highland Show where YFs and their activities are part of the fabric of the show.

So member numbers are down, putting many clubs and the national association under some financial pressure.

Sadly good members of the staff team have had to be let go and the job retention scheme has been used to help cut costs. This has had to be balanced by the need to have enough people to answer queries and be there to help clubs build numbers, and participate in all the activities members enjoy once restrictions are lifted and young farmer life gets back to normal.

There has also been time for the board to look to the future and the structure of the organisation. Council, which was not working well, has been replaced by specialist working groups who will each report to an enhanced board. The new board will have more co-opted members who will be able to take a longer strategic view as elected members come and go.

There is much to be optimistic about and I am very confident that in a couple of years members and clubs will be back in large numbers to enjoy all the things that SAYFC has to offer.

I always like to see when young farmers return to the family business that they bring something new to ‘the party’

There is a glaring opportunity for many rural businesses at the moment mainly as a result of the pandemic.

Foreign travel has been much more difficult and there has been a desire by those living in large towns and cities to get out and enjoy what is now perceived as safer country air.

Sales of motor homes have risen year on year by between 60 and 70% , annual sales will break the 15,000 total this year. Touring caravan sales are following a similar pattern. Purchasers are younger than the traditional caravanner. All these new owners will be hitting the road as soon as restrictions are lifted and will be looking for a little piece of Scotland to park up overnight and pay good money for the privilege.

Most will remember the unedifying scenes last spring of campervans at local beauty spots across Scotland much to the annoyance of locals.

Planning restrictions vary from region to region but in many areas you can provide pitches for up to five caravans or motorhomes without having to apply for planning. All you need is an area of grass with reasonable access from the main road and a family member to point out their pitch and take the money. For these basic facilities you can charge £10 or £12 per night potentially £3-4K per year. Modern caravans and motorhomes have all their facilities and can be self contained for a few nights

The more facilities you add the more you can charge, hardcore roads, a water point and chemical toilet disposal point would all add value to your spot.

If you are in a busy tourist area it may be worth putting on your brave pants and going for planning permission for a larger site with facilities.

We did this in 2010 and have certainly never regretted it. We had to borrow around £500k to bring in utilities and build a reception/shower block. Our park has 120 static holiday homes and tourers. Travellers would generally pay more for the best facilities. We opted for under floor heating and wet wall showers cubicles but our customers love it and we have dozens of great reviews. We have space for 31 tourers/ motor homes with hard standing pitches with electric and water hook up and grey water drainage on each pitch and chemical toilet dump point near the entrance. We charge £25-£30 per night, occupancy was almost 100% for the months we were allowed to open last season.

The tourer part of the site occupies around five ha and in a normal season should bring in around £100k so well worth our investment.

There are many other tourist related opportunities, do your research and see if you and your family can cash in on this opportunity while it is here.