A DIFFERENT year than expected for Gemma Bruce of Udny YFC, as she takes up the challenge of SAYFC national chairman, after learning the ropes from Kim Livesey.

Being brought up on a beef and sheep family farm in Udny and watching family and friends joining young farmers clubs, Gemma developed a passion for all things farming and her journey into young farmers began.

“I always wanted to be involved in young farmers, stewarding Grampian rally at 10 years old and attending my first meeting at the age of 14. Young Farmers has always been part of my family and one that I certainly did not want to miss out on!” said Gemma.

The family run a suckler beef herd, pedigree Simmentals, a flock of pedigree Suffolk, a bit of arable and everything else on the side.

“As kids we always got involved and helped on the farm – from all the exciting jobs from picking stones and rolling out bales… it seems since we left the farm it has become modernised, getting a bedder… they must have realised the hard work,” joked Gemma, who moved to Aberdeen somewhat seven years ago, now working in a local pharmacy.

Having a full time career as a pharmacist has certainly not stopped Gemma achieving her goals, taking on several club duties to include treasurer and chair of Udny YFC, East Aberdeenshire district chair, International chair, North region chair, and now national chair is the next to be ticked off an impressive list.

“The opportunities and life skills that office bearer roles bring are life changing, 14-year-old me starting Young Farmers would have never be able to say boo to a ghost, and certainly would never see myself becoming national chair,” she continued.

“The skills I have developed have been phenomenal in everyday life, with public speaking being a massive part for me, as well as organising myself a bit more. Taking on treasurer of my club, brought many talents, but when I was self-employed, I was able to do my own books and understand finances, all from the skills I had learnt through office bearer roles.

“I was never one to put myself forward for anything, but to achieve what you want in life, you need to. You need to take all the opportunities that you can, there are so many on offer, but I just want to showcase how amazing SAYFC really is to all new, current and past members,” enthused Gemma.

Each role has brought different challenges for Gemma and not one the same, but it is the support around her that has encouraged her journey.

“Everyone is there to support you, there are so many people that have previously held roles, that are always willing to lend a hand, which you can always learn from, as well as using your own judgement,” she explained.

“The most inspirational person in my YF career, has got to be Alan Gray, he was a long-standing member of Udny YFC, and always encouraged me from a young age. Not only did he get me involved with club events, he always told us to engage with activities in our district. Alan knew so many people in the industry and was always someone I looked up too,” added Gemma, whose favourite event is now speech-making, after building her confidence through Young Farmers.

With big plans for the year, the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has not put a stop to Gemma’s talents.

“This year we are trying to re-vamp things slightly and my main aim is the emphasis on the ‘are ewe ok campaign’ which we have taken to social media to showcase that SAYFC are here to help everyone,” said Gemma, with the launch of the new SAYFC website – YF connect – creating a network with current members and alumni, as well as being able to access information, links and organisations more easily.

“One of these links is the ‘rural hub’ which has been pulling together different connections and organisations that are out to help support our mental health. It is so important people keep talking especially in our current situation, when socialising and meeting up is all very limited,” added Gemma.

With many ambitions ahead regarding mental health, it is going to be a challenging year ahead, as well as wanting to engage with office bearers to develop their skills further and maximise their opportunities.

“Again, not like we planned, but we do hope to offer some on-line training or virtual training, and when the time comes face-to-face contact – it is all just a matter of time, but I want to be here to support everyone, especially people coming into new roles, they should be taking the most they can from this opportunity," she continued.

“Covid-19 has made us re-think how we can go about doing things, but it won’t stop us from achieving what we want from this year. I am really impressed as to how clubs are getting involved and coming up with ideas on how to continue their events. Virtual stock judging is one you would never think you would see coming,” added Gemma.

Covid-19 hit, sending the country into lockdown, but a positive trend to come from the crisis has been an increase in people buying local food, as well as understanding where their food comes from.

“The public perception of Young Farmers needs understood, although we are all out for a laugh and good fun, it is a serious organisation,” Gemma was keen to point out. “I want to be able to engage with the public, helping them understanding where their food comes from, and how important it is to buy local.

“My vice, Katie Burns, has been a great support, getting a lot of people involved in promotional videos, campaigning the ‘farm to fork’ and asking clubs to share their journey in the hope this will reach the public target market and reduce this understanding gap,” said Gemma.

Everything is reliant on technology, who knows the next time a face-to-face meeting can happen, but Gemma is ambitious for the way ahead and making the most out of her year as national chair.

“Although it is not the year that we had planned, it is not going to stop me from achieving my goals. I only get one chance at this opportunity and I want to be able to look back and see the positive impact I had on the organisation

“I am part of a team and I have a strong committee behind me this year, everyone is so willing to put the time in, voicing an opinion and creating new ideas on how we can push forward in the current situation – it is certainly a strange one!

“Although SAYFC is changing over time, it is an organisation that is always going to be here, we just need to continue to change and adapt to meet the needs of our members, but there is no reason why we can’t, and I believe we will.

“I have always wanted to be in YF and always will, I want to be able to help those going forward and to learn from the experiences I have gained and hopefully be able to pass on a word of wisdom to future generations to come,” concluded Gemma.