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Alistair McCarthy: Bitten by the farming bug at a young age in Caithness

This week, we caught up with Bower and Forfar member, Alistair McCarthy.

Alistair McCarthy
Alistair McCarthy hopes one day to return to the family farm in Caithness.

Every month, we catch up with a Young Farmer in SAYFC. Alistair McCarthy is from a Caithness agricultural family and now lives and works on a 750-acre livestock unit in Angus.

What’s your background? I grew up in Mey, Caithness, helping my dad and uncle on Longoe Farm, which they manage. The North Country Cheviot flock and Aberdeen-Angus herd are the backbone of the farm while a small amount of crop is grown for own use. It’s safe to say I was bitten by the farming bug at a young age and it’s still as strong
today. Right from the early days I have been involved as much as possible – frosty
winter mornings lifting neeps or getting stuck into helping in the lambing shed are some of my earliest memories. I have always had a passion for livestock. My
earliest showing memories come from both the poultry and helping mum with the
Shetland ponies before being independent enough to progress on to sheep and cattle. When I was young, I got a present of two black Cheviot gimmers and this
has now grown into a small flock. On leaving school, I worked on a local livestock
farm for nearly three years and although enjoying my time I felt a change was due.
At 19, I got the opportunity to move to Angus to work on a livestock farm to further
my experience.

Are you an office bearer in Young Farmers or have you been previously? I am currently junior vice-chairman of Bower YFC, stock judging convener
of Bower and Caithness district YF, and committee member of Forfar JAC. Being
on committees for the last six years has been a great insight into the running
of a club and what it takes to keeps things running smoothly. Over the years,
I’ve enjoyed taking on more responsibility and hope one day this may lead to a
chairman’s role.

Why did you join Young Farmers? I joined at 14 as it was something I’d always been excited to do from a young age. Being from such a tightknit agricultural community like Caithness made the transition into the club easy along with the welcoming nature of the older members. When starting my Young Farmers’ journey, I was looking to meet like-minded people with a similar interest and to broaden my horizons with new challenges and experiences.

Alistair judged the North Country Cheviot show at Dingwall recently, pictured with Jonnie Campbell, Bardnaclavan.

What has been your most memorable moment as a Young Farmer so far? Being part of the winningcjunior stock judging teamcand second place individual
at the Royal Highland Show in 2018. This was a day that came with many emotions
and is still a fond memory to this day.

Favourite time of year in the agricultural calendar? Summer and autumn.
With summer shows, tup sales and harvest being some of my favourites.

If you could change something in the world, what would it be? Quite topical now – I wish I had the ability to eradicate bird flu. We’re entering the main time of year that would normally have been the poultry show season and this is the fourth consecutive year that there will be no shows or sales. Hopefully, something can be done before this popular hobby dies out and we end up losing some of the pure breeds.

How has Young Farmers impacted your life? It has changed my life
in many ways. It’s opened numerous doors to new experiences and meeting new people I’d never have met. It’s given me the confidence to branch out and try new things, from
lamb dressing to cabaret and everything in between.

What are your life ambitions? I see myself back in Caithness where I hope to
increase my existing flock of Cheviot and Beltex cross ewes if/when more ground
becomes available. I also hope to continue the family line on returning to Longoe
and be the fourth generation to farm there.

Why would you encourage somebody to join SAYFC?
There really is no other organisation like SAYFC – the diverse variety of
backgrounds, interests and ages of members means everyone is made to feel
welcome. SAYFC opens the door to numerous opportunities for young people in agriculture, be it be within your local community or the other side of the world.
There are always chances available to explore, improve and develop.