It must be galling for young wannabe farmers with no land to see established farmers’ sons and daughters take little interest in their family farm.
While there are hundreds of hopefuls out there desperate for a chance of a farm of their own there would appear to be just as many that have a farm for the taking and don’t seem to want it.
When I was younger it was a complete mystery to me why any youngster would leave the family farm and go off and do something else. However, now that I have three potential farmers of my own things look different.
None of our three kids (17, 18 and 20 years old) have been smitten by the farming bug. Our son has his heart set on civil engineering and our two girls would sooner spend a life without hair driers and makeup than marry a farmer.
Before going any further I should say that Mrs McQ and I are very proud of our children and they are not a disappointment to us because they don’t want to farm. I could go on and flatter them more in case they should read this column but there’s no need; the only reason any of them would pick up the Farmers Weekly would be to see if I had hidden my car keys under it.
It’s not hard work that has frightened them off. They all have stacks of standard grades and heaps of Highers to prove that they’re not workshy. They’re also self-motivated, driven and focused on the career paths that they have chosen.
I would hope that their work ethic and drive came from watching their mum and dad. But I’m also certain they don’t want to farm for the same reason. Seeing their parents work long hours in challenging conditions for very little financial reward is no incentive for someone with drive and energy to do the same.
Our son started a four year course at Edinburgh University last summer. He took us by surprise because for someone who was such a home bird he loves it there.
However, he did come home for the weekend to spend Mother’s Day with us and he said he was “looking forward to doing some work on the farm”.
Janet and I wondered if he’d had an epiphany moment and after an absence from the farm had decided that farming was the life for him.
If that was the case then fate was to deal us a cruel blow.
The day before Mother’s Day I brought in a mob of ewes but had to leave one behind me because she was partially blind. Ten minutes later I spotted the same ewe picking her way carefully into our garden.
Amongst the many delights in our garden is a rather large and deep pond.
I’ll cut a long story short here and go straight to the part where I’m chest deep in the ice cold water holding up the head of the ewe and Mrs McQ is standing by the side of the pond screaming like a banshee with my landing net in her hand. When she ran to the garage to find a rescue implement the landing net must have seemed like the logical choice to her at the time!
Our son, who was drawn by the commotion, also joined in the melee but the look of horror on his face said it all.
Once again he’d caught a glimpse of what could be his future and it made the train journey back to Edinburgh University seem shorter than ever.