27 Sep ‘The Biggest Challenge We Have Is Change’ – Alex Stephen, Mearns JAC
‘The Biggest Challenge we have is Change’
We hear from Mearns JAC and Aberdeen & Kincardine District Chairman, Alex Stephen in his Farmers Guardian article this month. Alex, 24, is a dairy farmer on the family farm, while also managing the beef and arable enterprises. He spent some of his time after university working in Australia and New Zealand.
Harvest: After what has been one of the wettest Augusts I have experienced, with very few consecutive dry days, harvest has been challenging. Here is hoping the heatwave we have all been waiting for is around the corner.
It has become clear recently that our weather forecasters and our Government have one thing very much in common – they cannot seem to agree on the same thing. The ‘B’ – Brexit – word which everybody is so very tired of, continues to grab headlines and be the talk of most rural groups. Similar to our harvest, it seems to be progressing very slowly – surely we will have finished by the time they finally decide the outcome.
Family farm: I help run the family farm which predominantly consists of dairy, with arable and beef enterprises added on the side. We milk 300 Holstein cows through six robots. Having completed four years at Harper Adams University, followed by a stint in Australia and New Zealand, I have been working full-time now for more than a year.
Since coming home, I have been given the responsibility of managing the arable and beef enterprises. I enjoy working at home alongside my parents and brother. We currently have a very good team of people working with us and the work we do would not be possible without them. I recently had a week where Mum and Dad were on holiday and from the second they left the house to the time they arrived home, there seemed to be one disaster after another. It really was just one of those weeks and it highlighted the importance of having a strong team. Between myself, our two employees and my brother, we overcame the challenges together.
YFC: In my spare time, I am an active member of my local Young Farmers’ Club, Mearns JAC. We had a very successful year with the club last year and as chairman this year, I am hoping to carry this on. Farmers have a lot to deal with on a day-to-day basis and must be versatile to cope with the problems that are thrown at them.
As the next generation of farmers, the issues facing us are not the same as our predecessors faced, however the determination to overcome them must be at least as strong. I believe the biggest challenge we have is change. Agriculture is constantly evolving; changes in environmental laws, animal welfare concerns, advances in technology and consumer trends. It is our job, as producers of some of the highest quality produce in the world, to adapt to the changes and meet consumers’ demands, even if it requires us to break old ways.