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Young Farmer Focus: Murray Stephen - 'There is no such thing as a quiet time of year'

Murray Stephen, 27, works on the family farm covering 162 hectares of spring barley, 8ha of potatoes, 300 breeding ewes and 200 cattle over the winter.

 

The farm also grows vegetables for its shop, Thorneybank Farm Shop.

This year: As the long nights draw in, I look back at the year’s work. In March, the lambs were born and now most of them are away.

 

In April the spring barley was sown and it was harvested in September.

 

And with the end of October, so too came the lifting of potatoes.

 

For most, this is the easy time of year, if there is such a thing. Keep the cattle fed, make sure the tups are doing their job and that all the ewes are the right way up, and begin to plan for the year ahead.

 

The other week we held a pumpkin patch that saw more than 400 people come to the farm. I guess people these days are not content with a turnip that I got when I was wee.

 

Shop: For us there is no such thing as a quiet time of year.

 

The year-end brings about Christmas, which is the busiest time of the year at our family’s farm shop.

 

In 1979, my grandfather had a surplus of turnips, so decided to flog some at the side of the road in a wheelbarrow.

 

Fast-forward 40 years and where that wheelbarrow once sat, now stands a state-of-the-art on-farm vending machine.

 

We are busy ensuring that we will have enough homegrown produce to meet demand.


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It is a time of year where every member of the family, including partners, lend a hand to ensure the machine is stocked and customers are happy.

 

The shop is under expansion with more machines going in so we can sell a greater range of products.

 

Seemingly no-one can go anywhere these days without stopping for a cuppa, so we are trying to tap into that market by installing a coffee machine?

 

Young Farmers: I am preaching to the converted here, but I can honestly say that being a member of the Scottish Association Of Young Farmers (SAYFC) has changed my life.

 

I have seen the world; from a study tour of New Zealand, to a group trip to China, and seeing parts of our own country that I might never have seen.

 

I have learned new and valuable skills, as well as the usual management and leaderships skills from my stint as Turriff and district chairman. To me the most valuable is undoubtedly my public speaking abilities.

 

I won the SAYFC senior speechmaking in 2016 – the skills I learned have certainly come in useful.

 

But, like most people, the best thing I have gained from being a Young Farmer is lifelong friends.

 

If the travel or opportunities are not enough to convince you to join, then surely the friendships and connections you make on this crazy journey will be.

 

Young Farmers is like a universal language. Learning that someone is or was a member is an instant connection.

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