THIS YEAR has been anything but normal for a passionate young farmer like myself. When it was announced on the March 17 (a day I now call Doom’s day) that Ayr Show and the Highland were cancelled, I saw my carefully planned show-season go out of the window. I did manage to squeeze some 20th birthday celebrations in before the full lockdown was announced.

To my parent’s delight (or annoyance) my two sisters and I moved back home to the farm for lockdown. This proved to be the best decision, as being stuck in the city would’ve been a nightmare. The first week involved adapting to new university life at the kitchen table, 100 odd miles from the actual place, it turns out I have the concentration span of a goldfish. Also being a typical Uni student who sometimes missed a lecture or two, the motivation to go to them online ran very low but I did manage to successfully complete all my work, make the deadlines and pass second year.

Fortunately, I had a full-time job at the local farm shop through the entire nine weeks of lockdown. I was in charge of the ‘click and collect’ shopping experience. I really enjoyed this, and it was a change from my usual work as a waitress. At this point lockdown almost felt normal however, there was nothing to look forward to; no dances, competitions, going out for dinner or seeing friends. Anyone who knows me well, knows how much I love going out, partying until the early hours, sourcing some cheap takeaway food then boarding a Callander bus home where there is always some horrific 2000 tune blasting, a couple or two hidden up the back “chatting” and someone emptying the contents of their stomach into a nice handbag at the front. I really miss the drama, the gossip and the memories that came with any Young Farmers event.

Suddenly having a half decent internet connection became fairly vital and not just from the Netflix point of view but for Zoom, which I for one had never heard of pre – Covid-19. My Young Farmers club successfully held an online AGM in which, I was appointed vice secretary for Callander. As a committee we have since organised online quizzes, challenges, competitions and stayed in touch with our members to make the most out of a bad situation. I’ve also managed to attend many online parties, which were quite different to the usual, but at least we were able to drink, laugh and have some fun.

Show season always gives one the opportunity to meet new people, new people meaning new friends or potentially something more. My parents talk about Young Farmers being “the marriage bureau”, a place to meet a potential husband but with no Young Farmer events, how has dating changed in lockdown? Three words, Tinder, Bumble and Hinge. These words might not mean a huge amount to the over 40s, but for us youngsters it is has kept many of us entertained along with TikTok, throughout the past few months in isolation. Without disclosing any scandalous information, I have dabbled in the online dating world, occasionally just for some entertaining chat and to find the profiles of my male friends. It does make me wonder if socialising in person is not allowed for the next six months, will we have to look at online dating as a serious alternative?

There used to be a certain pressure to have found “the one” by your early 20s but as society changes, that is no longer the norm. Nowadays young people have lots of exciting opportunities to travel and work, so for some there’s no rush to settle down. That being said, it could be nice to have someone to share these adventures with so if any potential bachelors are reading this, you know where to find me…

All joking aside, this period of isolation and lack of socialising has taken a toll on the metal health of many people. It is devastating to hear about the rise in suicide rates and the ongoing struggle many are experiencing. Being a student living away from home again, I can relate to anyone who battles with home sickness and the stress that accompanies living with strangers. My saviour is Young Farmers. The community and support it provides is brilliant and there are always people to talk to, meaning you don’t feel quite so alone. Since socialising in large numbers isn’t likely to be on the cards anytime soon, how will Young Farmers adapt and continue to support and help its members? Clyde and Central District has taken great steps. Our Mr and Miss competition was recently held on Zoom and there have been other online events such as quizzes and the country cook’s competition. Hopefully come next year, we will be able to schedule sporting competitions, calf rallies and activities that can abide by the social distancing guidelines. It is sad that dances and shows aren’t expected to go ahead for the foreseeable future however, I’m sure the first big ‘sesh’ back will be a memorable one.

To conclude, some good things have emerged out of lockdown. The small community I live in has really come together and got to know each other better with chats over the garden fence, drinks on the loading bank and socially distanced shed gatherings. The highlight for me was spending more time on the farm, checking cows with Dad, and even getting trusted to cart bales of hay in from the fields. Farmers haven’t stopped throughout the whole pandemic and I think they deserve a round of applause. Being part of the farming culture is something I have always taken pride in and I look forward to it playing a big part in my future.