By Lianne Brunton

SAYFC international chairperson

When asked to do an open piece for The Scottish Farmer, I have to say that I wasn’t entirely sure that I was the right person – being a physiotherapist who is about to move to the capital city!

However, I was brought up on a working farm, have been heavily involved with Young Farmers for more than 10 years and do spend a lot of my time in the countryside, or talking about something agriculturally based with my patients – it helps to distract them from the pain I inflict!

I was raised on a mixed farm in the sunny East Neuk of Fife, supposedly one of the driest parts of Scotland, where my dad and brother farm 300 acres, growing seed grain, producing fat lambs and store cattle. In 2014, we also diversified and put up a 500 kW wind turbine.

As children, we were never allowed to just sit on our backsides watching television or play the Xbox like our friends – we would always be made to help out, whether it be with the sheep or in the garden or my least favourite job to this day ... roguing … especially when you’re made to go through a field for the second time!

I even remember going to school with iodine splattered up my face after a lamb kicked during night shift, when trying to treat its navel – not the coolest look when you’re 14 years old, and your hands also look like you’ve smoked 50 a day your whole life.

Saying all this, however, I wouldn’t change a thing about my upbringing. I am constantly being told that I am a ‘grafter’ and take on too much, but in reality I don’t think I know what to do if I’m not busy which is definitely a result of my agricultural background.

This strong work ethic is definitely the reason that I’ve ended up where I am today and it’s only when you look back that you appreciate how this has been ingrained in you from such a young age and how much of a benefit it is to you throughout all stages of your life, plus how valued it is in all industries.

I left the farm aged 18 to study in Glasgow and returned five years later with my physiotherapy and sports medicine degrees, going straight to work in a very busy private clinic where I still am today.

It’s very hard to gauge how much of an understanding the general public actually have about farming in the UK or even what is happening locally around them. I occasionally wonder if some people from the town travel in their cars without looking out of their windows and yet other times I’m pleasantly surprised by how much some people have noticed and the interesting questions they then put to me.

For example, I’ve been asked by patients why we have to kill the sheep to take the wool (I blame the ridiculous PETA anti-wool campaign); if the cows purposely eat extra in the lead up to Christmas so my Dad doesn’t have to work Christmas Day and why no fields have anything that we can actually eat in them, just to name a few.

On the other hand, I have patients who come in eager to hear how lambing is going or if a recent rainfall has damaged any crops.

Recently, the thing that I’ve found myself talking most about is the whole lamb production cycle – from the way we change the crayon colour on the tup to how we scan and then separate the ewes into groups to ensure the correct feed ration is given. Some have become quite fascinated by the science involved in agriculture, that they had never been aware of.

It makes me question whether we need a more in depth, advanced Countryfile style of programme, but then if you’ve ever watched Gogglebox – maybe not!

One of the best ways that I feel we are educating the public is through RHET – if we can educate the future generations and continue to do so for many years to come, then surely we will get away from the current situation where some of the teachers and parents (from all occupations), that come along on the visits, are as misinformed as the children.

My mum, Carole, has been the co-ordinator for RHET Fife for 17 years now and has seen it grow from a time when they initially reached less than 500 children in the academic year, to this current year where they have reached more than 6000 children in Fife alone. Our club, East Fife JAC, usually always have members helping with the larger events which is great for both parties.

I couldn’t do an opinion piece without mentioning Young Farmers. I’ve been a member of East Fife JAC for more than 10 years and can honestly say the SAYFC is one of the best youth organisations out there. At the time you probably don’t realise that it is having such an influence on your development but having reflected back on my time within it, I can honestly say it’s played a massive part in my life.

I feel that I’ve made the most of my time within Young Farmers and embraced all opportunities, with the highlight being my year as club chairperson in 2017-2018 for which I won 'National Member of the Year' and we also brought home 'National Club of the Year' – the first club to do the double!

That being said, I don’t think you could win either of these without a good committee and willing members. It wasn’t that long ago that we, as a club, were struggling for both so it really does show that there are always peaks and troughs for every club, but never give up or be afraid to ask for help, especially from past members.

I am currently international chairperson, which is a very exciting role as you get to help people to travel, something which I am extremely passionate about. I feel that it really broadens your mind, forces you out of your comfort zone and grows you as a person.

This year sees members head off on exchange to America, Tasmania, Finland, Switzerland, to name a few, and will see us welcoming four Rwandan young farmers to Scotland in June for a two-week visit. We have lots of exciting plans for this year, including the recently launched National Junior Weekend at Ardeonaig, Killin, which is open to all members under 18 years old.

It should be a fun-filled weekend of socialising and outdoor activities with members from all three regions.

I’ve only just touched on the opportunities that are available through SAYFC, but you must be pro-active and take them. If I had one piece of advice for members it would be to grab every opportunity that comes your way quickly with both hands – you really do get out as much as you put in!