Each month we ask a young farmer for their views on farming and rural youth. This month we caught up with Ellie Robertson from Keith
Name: Ellie Robertson
Club: Keith and District
Where do you stay? Roebank, Grange, Keith.
Do you hold or have you held any office-bearer roles at Young Farmers? I am Deveron an Speyside District secretary, joint secretary of Keith and District Young Farmers and previously ladies convener.
Tell us about your background in agriculture: I live on a small family farm which comprises beef suckler cows, breeding ewes, my parents Shane and Lesley and my siblings Bradley, Jack and Gina.
What do you do for an occupation? I went to the Robert Gordon University aged 16 to study for my Master’s degree in Pharmacy and I am now a pharmacist in my hometown of Keith.
What sparked your interest in agriculture? My parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles are all farming folk so I have had a keen interest from a young age. Farming is a very satisfying way of life, something that’s in your blood, and there’s no medication for it.
What is the most rewarding thing about working in the farming industry? This has to be the creation of new life. A new born calf or lamb never fails to put a smile on your face. It’s a novelty that never seems to wear off.
As rural youth, do you think there is something we should be doing additionally or differently within the agricultural sector? Unless you inherit a farm or work outwith farming to subsidise it, it is near impossible to get a start in farming. Land prices and machinery are so expensive that farming income could never repay it. This is where the Young Farmers Start-Up Grant and the New Entrant Scheme provide great opportunities. I think the agricultural sector should be simplified and less money spent on endless paper trails. Administration is a problem in every profession and it’s just unfortunate that we now have to record things that would have been considered common sense in years gone by.
Where do you see the farming sector in 10 years’ time? There is great uncertainty within the agricultural sector due to reducing subsidies and in light of Brexit. A huge reduction in farm subsidies calls for greater efficiency. However farmers are unable to price their produce as sales revenue is often dictated by markets and realistically there are only so many overheads that can be reduced. Diversification is an option to encourage new income but this often requires heavy capital investment, which is not always accessible.
I think Brexit will be good for us all and our new Prime Minister Theresa May seems capable of steering us out of Europe, as long as she is helped and not hindered by her colleagues and bureaucracy. In 10 years’ time I can only hope that farming is more profitable and more sustainable.
If you could pass on one piece of advice to someone looking to get into the sector what would it be? I have three pieces of advice. Firstly, listen hard – this is when you learn most. Secondly, do your sums – cash flows are more important than profits. Thirdly, be content – appreciate what you have.
We can’t end the interview without talking about Young Farmers so tell us about your experience – why did you join? All of my family are past Young Farmers so I went along to my first meeting aged 15 and loved it!.
What do you most enjoy about Young Farmers? Young Farmers is all about meeting new people and of course being sociable. There is nothing more satisfying than spending free time with a group of like-minded, quality folk; it’s a bit like having a second family. Young Farmers offers a whole range of new opportunities and different activities. Only last year I found myself on stage impersonating Tina Turner at the Northern Spotlights competition. Somehow this won Best Individual Act, with the Deveron and Speyside sketch coming third overall. This was one of the most daunting yet thrilling things I’ve ever done. Preparations are well underway for this year’s competition at Thainstone on Saturday February 18 and tickets still available from www.shop.sayfc.org.
How do you feel Young Farmers has impacted your life? Young Farmers has enabled me to make lifelong friends and also given me confidence and communication skills, which are essential in my profession. For this, I am very thankful.
Do you have any advice for someone looking to join? You won’t regret it.