Opinion: We farmers need good health and role models

This year is going to be a life-changing one for everyone in the McQuistin family.

With a fair wind, all three of our children will graduate from university this summer with a clutch of degrees between them. 

They have all worked hard and each one has grabbed their opportunity to equip themselves with the best education they could possibly have. 

They will now have to try and find a job that suits their different talents and hopefully get a chance to live their dreams. I have every confidence in them.

See also: Rural depopulation is like rust

In some ways I envy the challenge they are about to face.

Being the only son in my parent’s family I was given the chance to live my dream and become a farmer without having to compete with anyone else.

Neale McQuistinNeale McQuistin is an upland beef and sheep farmer in south-west Scotland. He farms 365ha in partnership with his wife, Janet.


I’m not sure if any of my three older sisters ever wanted to be farmers or not. 

In those days, the heavy expectation that I would become the farmer in our family must have also worked against my sisters’ prospects of ever becoming the farmer at the small farm where we lived at the time.

There has been a downside to that for me, believe it or not.

I will never know if I could have cut it in the real world and found myself a job or started my own business.  

On a plate

My start in life was handed to me on a plate – even if it didn’t come with a silver spoon.

Her Outdoors has decided to give up her part-time job as a school teacher this summer.

She studied hard and worked her way into a teaching career when she was the age our children are now.   

For five mornings every school day, for the past 25 years, she has jumped in the car and gone to work leaving me to get on with things.  

There is no denying that she enjoys being a school teacher. But, she always looks forward to coming back every afternoon to do the job she really loves, which is farming.

The truth is, Her Outdoors has dreamed of being a full-time farmer ever since she was 10 years old.

Becoming a school teacher was just a means to an end.

A teacher’s holidays provided her with the opportunity to spend as much time as possible on her family’s farm after she had reached school-leaving age.

Her very early introduction to hill farming at a very tender age was not something that was planned.

A great tragedy befell my wife’s family 43 years ago. When she was only five years old, her father died of cancer.  

Steely stuff

Her mother, who is made from very steely stuff, chose not to give up the farm.

She kept going even though everyone advised her to sell up.

By the time Her Outdoors was 10 years old, she had trained her own collie dog and was herding a substantial part of the family’s hill sheep farm on her own.

All the members of my wife’s family pulled together when they were only children to make it through that very challenging time.

My mother-in-law and all of her children would be great role models for anyone, male or female, who wants to make a career in farming today.  

They know what it’s like to be in a very challenging situation and they know how to work hard and keep focused in order to overcome adversity.

They also know there is nothing in this world that is more important than good health. Without it, no one will ever get the chance to live their dreams.

Good health to you all in 2017. 

See more