TWO YOUNG farmers from the east region of SAYFC are gearing up to compete to become Scotland’s Young Farmer of The Year (YFOTY) as they go head-to-head with four other finalists in two weeks’ time.

The popular SAYFC competition held elimination rounds earlier this summer during the regional rallies, to narrow down their final six and The Scottish Farmer has been speaking to the frontrunners ahead of the final round on December 4.

Read more - Northern contenders for the YFOTY title

The six contenders, two representing the north, two from the east and two from the west, were tasked with putting together a fictional business plan with up to £500,000 to invest in a farming operation in Kinross.

They will then have to deliver their proposals to a panel of judges, before going on to complete a final round of challenges, which are still to be revealed.

The winner will be announced that evening at SAYFC’s ‘Five Star Awards Night’ taking place at the Royal Highland Show’s new member’s pavilion on Saturday, December 4.

Gregor Bousie

Bell Baxter ADS’s Gregor Bousie is one of two finalists from the east region competing to win the title of 2021’s YFOTY.

He told The SF that having been brought up on livestock and arable farms, which his father worked on, he was certain that he wanted to be involved in agriculture. Leaving school at the age of 17, he went to study agriculture at Oatridge College and after two years he began working on a local livestock and cereals farm where he enjoyed working with livestock. He can now be found working at Over Rankeilour Farms in Cupar, where he has been since 2018.

Gregor Bousie

Gregor Bousie

Bell Baxter ADS's Gregor Bousie

“Here on the farm, I do a large majority of the ploughing, all the sowing of cereal crops and the preparation of veg ground,” he said. “I really enjoyed working with the livestock in my previous job but the change has been good and gives you something to strengthen your CV. We have a few sheep at home and I enjoy helping my uncle who has helped broaden my experience with cattle and sheep. I enjoy working with my collie dog, Meg and I have a youngster called Fudge.

Outside of work, Gregor is a keen curler and is the current chair of Bell Baxter ADS. He joined the club in 2015 and was proud to report that this year they have recorded their largest membership for a long time with some 40+ members.

Like all clubs, Bell Baxter ADS’s usual calendar of events were stung by Covid-19 and zoom meetings didn’t make up for the loss of face-to-face activities, but Gregor said he is pleased that they have just had a very successful ploughing match and the cabaret practice is about to begin which he hopes will give members a boost.

Turning to the YFOTY competition, he told The SF that it was his first year to throw his hat in to the ring and felt it was an experience not to be missed.

Eliminations took place at the regional rallies and Gregor and other participants had to take part in six different activities which he said included quad bike handling, stock judging and fault finding, amongst others.

He was delighted to qualify through to the final but added that he was feeling nervous about the business plan he has to prepare for it.

Two weeks ago, he had the opportunity to go and visit the farm in Kinross which would feature in his proposals.

“It was really great to have the opportunity to see the farm and have a tour of the operation,” he said. “Martin and Alastair from Galbraith’s were really helpful and gave us a lot of background which will help us with our business plan.

“Some £500,000 is a reasonable amount of money to play with but all finalists will have to think carefully about how they future proof the farm to make sure they can make a return on their investments.”

With a nod to the recent COP26 event and discussions on climate friendly farming, he added that any decisions would have to be careful to ensure they don’t end up releasing more greenhouse gas emissions, as judges would likely be looking at the environmental outcomes of any plans.

“We have a mentor through RBS who is on hand to speak to us at any time and we have access to a farm advisory handbook,” he continued.

“The YFOTY competition is a great experience for young farmers to go through as it will set you up for later in life.

"You never know what is round the corner, one day you might be driving a tractor and the next day proposing something for a new venture of your own.

“I would encourage others to take part in the competition in years to come as it is not only a great thing to add to your CV, but it is a brilliant opportunity to meet new people who aren’t just in your club and will expand your network across the whole country.”

Craig Bell

Beef and sheep farmer Craig Bell is gearing up for the YFOTY final and is hoping to bring back the win for his club, Kinross JAC.

The 26-year-old works full time on the family farm at Seggiebank, where they run 180 Angus and Simmental cross cows with their calves sold as stores and 650 breeding ewes – a mix of Cheviots, Cheviot Mules and Texel crosses.

Prior to coming home to work full time on the farm, he completed a three-year BSE in Agriculture at Craibstone and then travelled and worked in New Zealand for a silage contractor for two years – an experience he would recommend to anyone.

Craig Bell

Craig Bell

Kinross JAC's Craig Bell

Craig is the current chair of Kinross JAC and explained that he is in his second year of office due to Covid putting a halt to club activities last year and committees voting to extend office bearers positions by another year.

“I’ve been a member of Kinross JAC for more than 10 years,” he said. “We are one of the largest clubs in the district with around 55 members, most of whom are very active in regional and national events.”

They had a strong turnout of members for the east regional rally where Craig and others decided to put their name forward for the YFOTY competition.

With six activities to be marked on, Craig said he was grateful for the stockjudging element which is where he thinks he faired the best, but was both surprised and excited to make it through to the final.

Turning to the business plan element which will feature in the final round, he said that he had some previous experience from his college days, but that it was all still a steep learning curve.

“It is all such a good experience being able to demonstrate our ideas by putting them in to practice,” he said. “The fact we have a mentor from RBS is really good as we can get feedback and it is almost like being at college, having someone critique and grade your work.

“The farm in Kinross that we are focussing on has so much potential and the judges will be looking for us to look outside the box and do something a bit different. I think a lot of marks are going to come from creativity and ideas, challenging ourselves to do something out with our comfort zone.”

Craig added that he was looking forward to the final and awards night in December: “It is such a good end to the whole experience having both the final and then rounding it off with a dinner and awards night. I’m so looking forward to seeing everyone again.”

He appealed to young farmers to consider entering the competition next year: “There is nothing to lose doing the competition but so much to gain in the opportunities it presents. You learn so many new skills and participation is what Young Farmers is all about.

“It is great to see SAYFC putting on a competition like this and having an awards evening to top it all off – it really gives back to members,” he continued.

One of the highlights for Craig of the awards night is the inclusion of the Unsung Hero award: “We have been crying out for years for this to recognise all the people who may not be the face of the club but in many cases are the backbone. It is a perfect way to recognise all those members who devote so much time and energy to SAYFC and supporting its members,” he concluded.