She was recently elected the national chairman for the Scottish Association of Young Farmers’ clubs and Suzie Dunn could not be a stronger advocate for the country’s leading rural movement, as Danusia Osiowy found out.
Scottish Young Farmer Suzie Dunn is a girl with a plan. Having recently been elected as the national chairman for the Scottish Association of Young Farmers’ Clubs, she is already implementing member support and promotion of the wealth of opportunities available as a YFC member.
Hailing from a small arable farm in Throsk, just outside Stirling, the main business enterprise is run by her father and brother, building agricultural steel framed buildings across the central belt. Despite her farming roots she was unaware of Young Farmers but eventually joined when she was 15.
Suzie, who works for H. and R. Gray Haulage, says: “I knew zero about Young Farmers when I was younger, my family were not involved with them much. My mum wasn’t from an agricultural background at all and was a ‘townie’, as we liked to call her, and my dad didn’t have a huge involvement with YFC growing up so for me to join was, if anything, by luck.
“There was a stockjudging competition being held on the neighbouring farm one day who we were friendly with, so I went along not having a clue what stockjudging was. Coming from an arable farm I didn’t have any stock knowledge whatsoever, but the club hosting the event was friendly and has great banter, so from that point on I was hooked and curious as to what else you could do.”
And that she did, going on to be an office bearer of some kind for the last 11 years, including assistant treasurer, treasurer, vice-chairman and chairman at both club and district level, West Regional vice-chairman and chairman and national vice-chairman. “My favourite memory without a doubt is my club exchange to Northern Ireland.
Before this trip I didn’t really leave home, I was scared to if I’m being totally honest and didn’t have the confidence. “I wasn’t going to go but the older members in my club basically made me go and told me ‘no’ wasn’t an option. “It was a laugh from start to finish and fantastic to see the differences and similarities of a fellow Young Farmers association.
“It’s a weekend I will remember for the rest of my life for so many different reasons and for what it did for my confidence. Looking back now I can’t thank those older members enough for pushing me so much as a youngster throughout Young Farmers because I wouldn’t be where I am today without them. I went from not wanting to leave home to never being at home now.”
Throughout her chairmanship, she plans to vlog her way around the country with #OnTheRoadAgain, in her bid to promote everything and anything that SAYFC has to offer.
She wants to shoot video footage at events, interviewing different office bearers and members throughout the year, before editing into short films. “Having been West regional chairman last year and focusing heavily on the international programme, it shocked me as to how many people never even knew this was available through SAYFC.
I think you take for granted the information you know about the association when you’re on a committee but this information needs to get down to grass roots members so they can take full advantage of SAYFC and everything it has to offer.”
Suzie also wants to improve support to these grass roots members and clubs by building on their mental health campaign – Are Ewe Okay? and introducing a new bale art competition which was held last year regionally.
She added: “It helped the region’s clubs with recruitment and publicity for the clubs and I plan to introduce this on a national level so we can get bale sculptures across the entire country to publicise and promote SAYFC and use it as a recruitment drive.”
Like any charity or business, Suzie is keen for SAYFC to ensure its financial stability and help its future. With the loss of their government funding, the national office is dealing with funds with even more attention to detail.
Asked how their financial challenges can be overcome, Suzie advocates collaboration. “We must ensure we maintain good relationships with stakeholders, we continue to grow our membership – investing in services rather than making cut backs.
“Membership has grown over the past few years with membership now higher than it has been since 1994. “We saw a membership increase of 4 per cent in 2016/17, we have set a target of 5 per cent for 2017/18 but I want to do even better than that.”
Next month will see the introduction of a new Young Farmer of the Year competition, which will be launched at the Royal Highland Show and run throughout the entire year with the final being held at next year’s show. Next February will also be SAYFC’s 80th anniversary and planning is already underway to make it a year to remember.
The movement will also benefit from a further international focus when they host next year’s European Rally, a non-governmental umbrella organisation, promoting and activating rural youth. “Young Farmers plays a very important role in Scotland and in my eyes SAYFC is the best youth organisation Scotland has to offer.
“It prepares our members for the future with the personal and professional development skills you gain within the association. “You don’t get such a vast, diverse amount of opportunities within one organisation anywhere else.”