Tom Adkins, a member of Upper Waitaki Young Farmers, recently embarked on his overseas experience in the UK as part of the Scottish NZYF Exchange. This exchange is the first one to take place since the Covid pandemic.
Tom shares his latest update:
After two weeks into the exchange, I've just completed my stay with the Brunton family in Anstruther, located in the scenic Fife district of Scotland. These past couple of weeks have been truly incredible, filled with farm tours, young farmers' events, sightseeing, and, of course, getting stuck in to some hands-on work.
One of the highlights of my initial weeks in Anstruther was getting a firsthand experience of young farmers' clubs and their events. On my very first day, I participated in a young farmers' field day, which combines elements of NZYF's contest and tournament days. Four clubs from the district competed for the field day trophy, engaging in various activities such as stock judging, tractor troubleshooting, identification challenges, and evaluating machinery and agricultural products. The day was full of teamwork and friendly competition.
During the lunch break, we had some spontaneous challenges organised by the district chair. These challenges involved each club sending two representatives to compete against one another. One challenge required us to toss and catch water balloons, gradually increasing the distances. The other challenge tasked us with creating the longest line of clothing using only what the two participants were wearing (don't worry, there was no nudity involved!).
After lunch, we shifted gears to sports events, starting with a 100-meter sprint and a roughly 400-meter run around a holding paddock. Tug of war followed, with six people on each team, and we rotated ends after each tug. I joined in the tug of war and, let's just say, I discovered I'm not exactly a natural at maintaining my balance! Next up was the sheaf toss, where we had to throw a sack of sand and straw with a pitchfork over the pallet forks of a JCB.
Finally, the most eagerly anticipated event of the day was the obstacle course. This event required teams of six, consisting of three guys and three girls. Each contestant had to spin around ten times with their head on a pole before navigating a series of tires on the ground. We then faced a maze of hurdles covered in silage wrap, adding to the challenge as we were still dizzy from the spins. After a short run, we encountered a 40-meter long, 20-meter wide length of bird/shade cloth that we had to crawl or run under. Finally, we made our way up a hill to a slip and slide, gliding down for 40 meters before reaching the finish line to tag the next member of our team. I was the last runner for our team, and we managed to secure a second-place finish.
Overall, East Fife emerged as the winners of the sports events, although they didn't claim the trophy for the day's events. We wrapped up the day with some well-deserved beers and a BBQ in the farm's garden.
Later in the week, the local club, East Fife, organised a gathering at West Sands Beach in St Andrews, famously known as the "Home of Golf" and the backdrop for the iconic running scene in the film 'Chariots of Fire.' We enjoyed a game of beach softball and took a brave dip in the chilly water, despite the sun preferring to hide. To conclude the outing, we indulged in some delicious pizza and savoured the local strawberries.
On Saturday, at the West Fife Agricultural show, the tug-of-war qualifiers took place to determine the representatives for the Highland games. East Fife fielded three women's teams and one men's team, with two of the women's teams achieving top positions in the competition. The men's team also qualified for the Highland show. It was impressive to witness the teams' dedication, training three times a week, and their hard work paid off (the competition is taken quite seriously here). The rest of the show was a delight, with a parade of animals and a dance held in a local grain shed, with Young Farmers manning the bar.
The last young farmers' event in the district was a mock auction. Forty items were listed, and individually, we had to estimate their value and record it alongside the given description. After submitting our estimates, we were divided into groups of four to proceed with the bidding. The winning team was the one that successfully purchased a minimum of two items, paying the least for them while still winning the bid. Each successful bid was followed by the auctioneer revealing the evaluation, creating anticipation around whether the participants made a profit or a loss. This tactical and entertaining game left a lasting impression and would be a great addition to NZYF events.
The Brunton family farm, spanning approximately 350 acres, primarily focuses on Wheat, Barley, and Oat production, alongside a flock of 250 breeding ewes. The Fife district is renowned for its extensive cultivation of these cereals, as it is home to distilleries for well-known brands like Johnny Walker whisky, Smirnoff vodka, Gordon's gin, and Quaker's oats, famous for their porridge.
I had the privilege of visiting multiple farms and witnessing a diverse range of farming operations. These included a hydroponic system with 16 hectares of strawberries, potatoes and broccoli growing in the district's fertile deep soils, a chicken farm with an egg processing plant producing 1.5 million eggs per day, a Simmental herd grazing in a coastal area of natural significance, where no soil or pasture improvements are allowed, carrot cultivation in sandy and dry soils, with an adjacent motocross training track serving as an alternative enterprise, a Beef expo in the southwestern region of Scotland, and attending a local discussion group.
My host, Ally, has been an amazing tour guide, ensuring that I experienced all the captivating sights in Fife. From exploring the picturesque stone-walled harbours of coastal fishing towns to witnessing a bucket list performance by the bagpiping band 'The Red Hot Chili Pipers' on Anstruther pier, every moment has been unforgettable. I even embarked on a day trip to Edinburgh, where I marvelled at the Royal Mile, hopped on and off a sightseeing bus, and visited Holyrood House, the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland. Other local attractions included the renowned St Andrews golf course, Kingsbarns whisky distillery, the long-standing farmers vs. merchants golf day at Ealing course, a refreshing morning swim in a man-made stone tidal swimming pool, savouring Scotland's best fish and chips in the local town, an exciting night out in Dunfermline, and last but not least, a visit to 'the secret bunker,' a 100ft deep underground facility built during the 1950s and 60s in response to the nuclear threat during the Cold War.
In between all these events, we managed to perform essential tasks on the Brunton family farm. We crutched, dipped, dagged, and foot bathed all the ewes, lambs, and rams. We also cleared out the remaining straw pens and sheds from the lambing season, removed wild oats from the seed wheat crop, and to top it all off, we sheared a few Hebridean sheep belonging to neighbouring farmers. his allowed us to streamline the main shearing process for the following week.
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