You can download previous versions of our magazine from our archives.
Follow on facebook
Owen takes Over
by Andrew Arbuckle and Eilidh MacPherson
Although he is only a few weeks into his term of office as chairman of the Scottish Association of Young Farmers Clubs, John Owen is looking forward to what he considers to be the busiest week of the year in the young farmers’ calendar.
Speaking to farmingscotland.com prior to the 2010 show, John said, “The Highland show really is our shop window. It allows large numbers of
visitors to come and see the wide range of activities that the modern
young farmers club compete in.”
The Young Farmers pavilion at the show was in many ways the focus of the work the Association carries out throughout the year with a wide
range of competitions taking place. As such, he wanted it to be not only a meeting place for members but
also somewhere where potential members could be attracted into the organisation. The many Young Farmers activities and competitions taking place also provided a showpiece for general visitors to the Highland.
John’s own involvement with the movement came about largely because both his parents had been young farmers but also because being too young to drive, he was taken along by a neighbouring young farmer. Initially he went to the Stirling club but then it amalgamated with two
others in the area and became the SSS club where he worked his way up to being chairman. From there it was on to becoming West Area chairman and then last month taking over the top seat at National level.
His chairmanship comes at a time when the SAYFC is recovering from a big financial loss and even if the recovery plan is now well in place,
he does not expect the Association to break even this year. “It will take another year to come through and we end up making money.”
However, he saw the pluses in the recent financial exercise. Part of it was a wide spread consultation with members and clubs all over Scotland.
That reconnection with the grass roots was very helpful as it helped formulate a strategic plan, he said.
His own roots are deep in farming – following his graduation from Stirling University with an honours degree in Ecology, John decided to return home to farm. He is now in partnership with his parents at Muirpark, a 1,100 acre upland livestock property outside Stirling. The main enterprises are cattle and sheep breeding units.
The commercial cattle enterprise has over one hundred Aberdeen Angus and Limousin cows. These are all put to a Limousin bull. The calves are all sold locally in Stirling at the suckled calf sales.
The sheep enterprise is based on 550 Blackface and Blackface cross Texel ewes, all of which are put to a Beltex tup. The lambs are then
sold store in the Autumn.
The Owens also operate a contracting business, working on cutting roadside verges and other activities for several local authorities. At one stage, they had fifteen tractors operating throughout Scotland involved in this work but that has been cut back now to contracting with those Councils closer to home.
Although John is deeply into farming, he accepts that the SAYFC membership of the future needs to come from a wider pool. “There are
fewer and fewer people working on farms and we have to put on a range of activities that will attract others who are living in country areas.”
He is already showing leadership skills and along with a number of members from across the regions he is cycling 135 miles from Aviemore to Kinross, via Stirling in aid of the Mercy Ships and to raise funds for the Young Farmers. The cyclists start their three day mission from the North Region on the Glorious Twelveth, reaching Pitlochry on the first evening (55 miles). Black Friday takes them into East Region territory to Bridge of Allan (50 miles) and the final leg on the 14th sees them wheel into Kinross after 30 miles.
So 46 Young Farmers are signed up to get on their bikes. So dig deep for charity and help the YF’s prosper!
Mercy Ships is an international charity that provides free medical care, relief aid, community development and long-term sustainable development in some of the world’s most poverty stricken nations, via its hospital ship The Africa Mercy and a number of land-based projects focusing on water and sanitation, education, infrastructure development and agriculture.
Working in partnership with SAYFC and Robert Wiseman dairies, Mercy Ships UK is inviting Clubs across Scotland to get involved in raising vital funds for their peers at the Food for Life Project in Benin, West Africa.
During an intensive 12 week course, the project trains young farmers from across the country in organic, reproducible farming methods designed to increase yields and provide them with long term ability to feed their families and earn a living. After the course, farmers return to their villages to put into practice what they have learned, but to do this they need basic equipment – a hoe, a rake, some seeds, a pair of wellies, a watering can and a wheelbarrow. The total cost is around £75.00 per farmer.
We are appealing to Young Farmers across Scotland to help raise a minimum of £15,000 (£5.00 per Young Farmer in Scotland) towards this project – enough to help 200 farmers in Benin. Robert Wiseman Dairies is supporting this project and if, collectively, Young Farmers raise £15,000 or more, they will pay for three Young Farmers to visit the Food for Life Project in Benin and experience first hand what the project is all about.
If your Club would be interested in supporting this project, please contact our Scottish Fundraising Manager, Susie Hope, to find out more, on 01899 830 475 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Susie, a former member of Peeblesshire JAC herself, can provide a speaker to visit your club to talk about Mercy Ships, assist you with the organisation of fundraising events and provide supporting literature where appropriate. Your help in raising these vital funds really can help transform lives and offer hope where previously there was none.