Earlston dairy farmer Sally Wilson is the latest volunteer to sign up to help local children learn more about farming and where their food comes from.
The immediate past chairwoman of Scotland’s Young Farmers is volunteering with the Royal Highland Education Trust and says she wants to welcome as many schools onto the family farm of Clarkmae, Blainslie, as want to visit.
She explained: “It’s really important that farmers are in contact with their consumers. Farmers can become so bogged down in the daily grind and you can forget who the end user is. It’s very important to educate children about where their food comes from. You hear horror stories of milk coming from factories and being a man made product. The other side is, agriculture gets written off as a career option in schools and it is really important to show children agriculture is a really varied industry. I’m milking cows using robots, it’s a technologically advanced industry yet the image is still of people leaning on gates chewing straw.”
She stepped down as the Scottish Association of Young Farmers (SAYF) chairwoman in May and says of the rural charity: “I owe SAYF a huge debt of gratitude, I wouldn’t be the person I am today without my involvement with Young Farmers and the skill set I have picked up is phenomenal. It’s given me a huge opportunity to travel and meet people all over the world.”
It is also through the organisation that she met her future husband, Jonathan Williams from Wales: the pair marry next August.
Sally, 30, farms with her mother and father, Ruth and Alec. The family moved to the Borders from Fife in December 1996, Ruth returning to become the sixth generation of her family to farm the land. Sally milks 300 Holsteins while the rest of the 1,000 acres are home to 500 Cheviots, small flocks of Texels, Bluefaced Leicesters and Suffolks and about 1,450 Cheviot mules.
Sally said: “I always used to work with sheep, I don’t know why I shifted to the cows but I found that’s where I’m at my happiest.”
She’s out at 4.30am for the morning milking: she does half the herd and the other half go through the three robot milking units, first introduced onto the farm in December 2009.
“I love the robots because you are giving the power back to the cow. She can do exactly what she wants when she wants: she chooses when to go and get milked and off she goes to the robot.
“I first saw them at an industry event in the south of England in 2004 and saw how the cows were queuing up to go in and that’s when I started to think: ‘that’s for me’.
Sally is joining 45 other Borders farmers who host RHET visits and is among 90 who volunteer for the trust in the region.
RHET’s local coordinator Lesley Mason said the trust’s services are free to schools, with farm visits and class talks tailored to suit specific topics and experiential learning opportunities required in a Curriculum for Excellence.
“Without our hard-working volunteers willing to host farm visits and provide classroom talks, the work of RHET Scottish Borders Countryside Initiative would grind to a halt. Sally is a welcome addition to our volunteer team. The combination of Sally’s knowledge and the facilities at Clackmae provide a superb learning resource for schools in the Earlston area.”