By Gemma Bruce

SAYFC North Region vice chairman

AS a pharmacist who lives in the centre of a one of Scotland’s major cities, I’m certainly not the usual candidate for an opinion piece in The Scottish Farmer.

However, having been brought up on a mixed beef, sheep and arable farm and having been immersed in young farmers for the last 14 years I am certainly a country quine. Outside of work my time is spent in the countryside.

I’ve often been told I’m a grafter – I can’t stand being idle. I have to be on the go all the time, a definite consequence of my agricultural background. As a child after school and holidays were spent helping out with whatever was happening on the family farm. Having grown up within throwing distance of the oil capital of Europe, I was always told being from a farming background would always be a benefit when it came to finding work. I’ve only just began to appreciate how much the agricultural work ethic and can-do attitude is valued within other industries.

A couple of years ago, tired of hearing fellow young farmers say they “can’t do that” or “they don’t know how”, I set myself a challenge. I decided I was going to participate in every SAYFC competition on offer, with the sole purpose of challenging myself. And if I’m totally honest with you to prove the point that anyone can try anything.

I’ve always found it interesting that the automatic response most people come with is I can’t do that. None of us are born able to do anything, aside from the desire to survive – we have to learn everything. It would honestly amaze you the number of people out there who have never managed to master such basic things as blowing their nose or cough properly. It certainly amazes me. When you haven’t mastered this, why on earth would you expect to be able to change the universal joint on a PTO shaft without learning how. You have to put in a bit of effort if you want to do something successfully.

We all have different talents but how can you find out what they are without taking that first step to learn a new skill. I’m not saying that you can’t have a natural flair to anything, I am simply saying how will you ever find out that you have it without giving it a go.

If I had hung back, there is no way I’d ever have picked up a tug-of-war rope let alone have the skills to be able to make my own one. I now compete in tug-of-war outside of Young Farmers as well. I’d never have realised that my Victoria sponges are more suited to sport (think frisbee) rather than consumption, and I certainly wouldn’t have sung and danced on stage – probably better I don’t again.

However, I don’t regret trying and really enjoyed these experiences.

Young Farmers gives members the opportunity to learn so many different skills or try so many different activities but they don’t always take them. I would like to challenge every member to try something that doesn’t obviously appeal to them or that they don’t believe they have to ability to do.

Two years on and many competitions later, I’ve nearly completed my participation goal with dairy cattle dressing, agri skills, sheep shearing and craftsmanship to cross off my list. Although a new competition, Young Farmer of the Year, having been added this year, just makes the challenge more interesting.

Now I’m not saying that I’ve been particularly successful in all my endeavours – apologies have to go to the fat lambs I returned with more than a resemblance of a standard poodle. I’m certainly not saying we should say yes to everything we don’t want to do but that we should simply be more open to trying new things. If being a Young Farmer has taught me anything it’s that taking the easy option isn’t nearly as valuable as pushing outwith your comfort zone and taking that opportunity.

Over the years I have been lucky enough to attend the Oxford Farming Conference, courtesy of the Gregor Travel Award, and travel to Tasmania, through the SAYFC exchange programme. I struggle to put into words how much these experiences opened my eyes to the possibilities the world offers.

An 80-year-old jackaroo, in Tasmania, told me that the only regrets he had were the things he hadn’t done. It’s time we all start to look at the world with more positivity and start to see every challenge as an opportunity. Take a risk and do something new.

With Brexit coming ever closer, leaving Europe only makes this more important. We now have to focus on finding the opportunities this may present not dwelling on the ones we may lose.

Just last month I was fortunate enough to have spent the week at the Rural Youth European Rally, as part of the preparation team. More than 100 young people from 20 countries across Europe spent the week looking at issues holding young people back in their own country and how these could be overcome. Their optimism and drive to try to change lives of young people living in the countryside is refreshing.

Some may change things, others might not, but they are taking the opportunity to try something different. I challenge you to do the same.