I was one of the last students to attend the West of Scotland Agricultural College when it was in Glasgow's Blythswood Square, before transferring to Auchincruive, near Ayr for my second and third years. A student's social life in Glasgow and subsequently Ayr was as much as I could handle, so I never got round to joining the Young Farmers Club (YFC), but with hindsight I wish I had.

The Scottish Association of YFCs (SAYFC) was created back in 1938 and was a very important social network for young people living and working in rural Scotland, who didn't have the opportunity to participate in a student's social life. Membership is open to anyone between 14 and 30 years of age, and with more than 80 clubs across Scotland affiliated with the association, anyone who is interested in joining will find a club near them.

The YFC used to be seen as a kind of marriage bureau, where couples from similar backgrounds with similar interests met and eventually married. While that was undoubtedly true for a good many, the YFC is more than just a dating agency.

The current motto "Not just for those who wear wellies" emphasises that the association is not just for farmers, and many of the current 3,000 members do not work, live or indeed come from a farming background. SAYFC is for anyone who would like to be part of a youth organisation where they can gain personal development.

I remember when I was active in a range of farming organisations how articulate some farmers were as a result of taking part in YFC speechmaking competitions. They had begun by being shown how to conduct themselves in debates in their local clubs and then progressed to national competitions, where standards are very high.

Another thing that I missed out on by not joining a YFC were the various skills that are passed on from older, experienced farmers - things like stock-judging to dressing animals for show or sale.

Young farmers are invited to farms to be shown the finer points to look out for when judging an animal. Then they are presented with a number of animals and invited to place them in order of merit, and then justify their decision to an older, more experienced judge of livestock.

Better still, in my opinion, experienced stockmen will show young farmers how to wash, clip, trim, groom and prepare beef and dairy cattle, or sheep for shows or sale. Properly dressed animals fetch considerable premiums over those presented in their natural "working" clothes.

A strong tradition has always been to organise a wide variety of informative visits. These can take the form of a traditional farm visit, however increasingly they are also to other successful rural businesses. Every visit has a pre-determined theme with the aim of looking at specific aspects of that business.

Once a year, usually in November, there is a conference open to all members who spend the weekend going on visits as well as listening to inspirational speakers from within the industry. They also get the chance to participate in breakout workshops and network with both fellow members and other key individuals and organisations from the wider agricultural and rural community.

Then there is a whole range of local activities that you would expect, from quizzes, badminton, squash, ten pin bowling, golf, hockey, football, netball or clay pigeon shooting to the tugs-of-war that often feature at local agricultural shows.

The latest national competition that has risen to prominence is "bale art" where local clubs use big bales as the basis of their creations that are sited in full view of main roads and then judged by a celebrity.

As if such a list wasn't comprehensive enough there are concerts that are held in local halls, as well as dances.

Another strong tradition is the organisation of study tours to see how agriculture and rural businesses operate outside Scotland. Every year there is a domestic trip either within the UK or Europe, that usually last around a week. Bi-annually there is the brilliant opportunity to travel on one of the famous international tours.

Previous tours have seen groups of around 20 members travel to places such as Texas, Argentina, New Zealand and California. These tours have now become some of the most applied for activities that SAYFC have on offer and frequently see applications from over 50 individuals.

The life skills picked up through membership of SAYFC are vast, whether through participating in one of the many competitions or simply through making decisions while managing the local club.