The irony of being chairman of the SAYFC without land or livestock isn’t lost on 26-year-old Allan Grant.
He’s a successful welder-fabricator in north-east Scotland’s oil industry, yet he longs to be a farmer “every single day” and vows to find a way of financing his dream of recreating the agricultural lifestyle his father and grandfather enjoyed.
However, he’s also realistic enough to acknowledge that if he did farm, or even worked on a farm, he wouldn’t be able to devote as much time to the movement as the job requires. Only by using 99% of his annual leave and working long hours in lieu of time off can he fit in an ever-expanding number of commitments.
“Most of the meetings I have to attend are in Edinburgh, which is a five-hour round-trip from my home in Turriff, so it’s a full-on job,” he says. “I’m lucky to have an understanding employer who lets me adjust my working hours to fit.”
Allan was originally “dragged along” to his first YF meeting – a stock judging event – by his sister when he was just 14. He was immediately hooked. At the time, the family lived in a remote part of upland Aberdeenshire, so he was attracted by the opportunity to get out and interact with others rather than stay at home.
Promotion through the ranks of club, district and area committees followed rapidly, culminating in his appointment to the national chairmanship in May.
Allan credits the SAYFC movement for giving Scotland’s rural youth a confidence they might otherwise lack, through speechmaking, new skills and organisational abilities. And judging by his own performance as a highly articulate communicator, the process does work.
He adds: “It’s also about meeting new people and making friends. If you’re a kid who comes from the back of beyond, it can be tough when it comes to leaving the farm or joining high school from a small primary in the hills. I was one of those kids and thanks to Young Farmers I grew to have the confidence to fit in and take part.”
His priorities for the year ahead involve expanding the membership and plans are already in hand for a new recruitment drive at pony clubs, scouts and girl guides clubs.
Allan is also focused on boosting the funds raised for the SAYFC’s chosen charity, the Royal Highland Education Trust. For him, that means taking part in a sponsored 90-mile walk on the West Highland Way.
With 10 more months ahead of him as national chairman, Allan clearly has the energy and enthusiasm to make a difference.
“There was a time, not so long ago, when people had to be pressurised into doing this job, but that has changed and it’s now seen as a real honour to be an ambassador for a movement which does so much for young rural folk.”