Vice President's Blog - 5 February 2019

The support and unity provided by an organisation like NFU Scotland are a vital tonic to the many challenges faced by Scotland’s farmers and crofters writes retiring Vice President Gary Mitchell ahead of his session on health and well-being at the Union’s AGM on Thursday 7 February in Glasgow.

Gary writes: “It is 10 years since I got first elected on to NFU Scotland’s milk committee. I can still remember that first meeting at the rural centre.  It was a daunting experience and fellow Dumfries and Galloway dairy farmer Kenny Campbell was the only person in the room that I knew.

“I certainly didn’t think that, a decade on, I would still be involved but, as we all know, when you have a passion for something it can be addictive.

“As I look back over the years, it blows me away how many farmers I’ve now met across all sectors in Scotland through working for NFUS.  That platform for networking provided by the Union is why it has been so successful down through the years.

“I never experienced university, but folks who have generally make life-long friends there.  I believe the union is where I have met many of my life-long friends, for which I’m very grateful.

“It’s very valuable if you have a person you can phone outside your area or local circle, where you can seek independent advice or even talk about an issue you are struggling with.  To have a willing, listening ear at the other end of the phone is invaluable.

“In my time as milk chairman, through the crisis in 2012, I received many calls from farmers with many concerns and sometimes a listening ear was all that was required.

“It is so important to talk.  Good mental health relies on it.  We naturally want to feel part of our society or industry, and we all struggle at times with the fear of failure.

“One thing farmers are very good at is communicating bad news.  If someone says: “isn’t it a lovely day”, we are already are pre-programmed to say: “rain forecast for tomorrow.”

“Nowadays, we have access to so much information online.  Last November, I attended an AHDB leaders’ forum at Edinburgh where one of the speakers, Sir John Jones, told us if we were to read a quality newspaper for 7 days, we would gain more information than someone would have in a lifetime in the 18th century.

“The reality is that our minds have had to adapt to this new world.

“The two days I spent at the NFU Scotland AGM, conference and dinner each year was a tonic for my mental health which was badly needed.

“I found 2018 a very difficult year for various reasons and, at this year’s NFUS AGM, I will be sharing some of my experiences at a personal level on how I arrived at my decision not to stand for Vice President this year.

“My talk will be interactive at the start, so delegates will require a mobile phone and hopefully all will make sense on Thursday.

“In my role as Vice President, I would like to thank everyone I’ve met over the past two years for their support and hospitality.

“It has been a life changing experience and a great eye opener to all the issues that NFU Scotland deal with on a day to day basis.  The size and scale of that workload is something that I share with any non-member I meet.

“A big thank you to all the staff at NFUS and, of course, to my President Andrew and fellow VP Martin.

“So with that ‘I’m oot!’ and hope to see you all on Thursday.”

Author: Gary Mitchell

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