National Federation of Young Farmers' Clubs

Fun, Learning, and Achievement

25 January 2014

Debates on topical agricultural issues and a chance to network with leading farming figures were just some of the highlights for members who attended the Oxford Farming Conference (OFC) in January.

National Chairman of Council Claire Worden, Cornwall FYFC, and ARAC Chairman Russell Carrington Herefordshire FYFC, had their places sponsored by the Worshipful Company of Farmers.

It was the first time Claire had been to the conference and she said it was a great place to make new contacts as well as find out more about the industry.

“Opportunity Agriculture was such a relevant topic to the next generation,” said Claire. “It was so interesting listening to a couple of the speakers that have found unique ways to grow their business or to start a new business.

“In particular Hans Henrik Koefoed from Inglby Farms delivered an interesting presentation as it showed that even a large scale business with 42 farms run by 42 families can be value driven with core agricultural principles still being at the heart of the business.”

The Worshipful Company of Farmers sponsors two NFYFC delegates because attendance at the OFC meets its aims to stimulate the development of agricultural education and understanding. In recent years, NFYFC has identified two members who would not only benefit from the experience but also make good use of the opportunity to learn from the information given and network with other delegates, including the Master and Liverymen.

NFYFC, in association with Marks & Spencer, was also able to offer one lucky member an all expenses paid place at the OFC. Georgia Frogley from Long Itchington YFC won a place on the trip in the NFYFC competition and said it was a “fantastic experience.” 

“I am grateful to NFYFC for allowing me to access this opportunity,” said Georgia. “It was great to hear some fantastic speakers and be inspired by stories from other young speakers who had taken risks within their businesses that had paid off and were now very successful.

“I met lots of important people who were very friendly and one of which said to contact him if I ever needed a job, so I feel very privileged indeed! I made friends from all over the UK that I am sure I will see at AGM or up and coming YFC competitions.”

During the OFC, two young farmers also went head to head to debate the pros and cons of renewable energy. Matthew Sharp, former Chairman of Ponteland YFC, and Duncan Howie, Maldon YFC, took part in the debate at the Oxford Union, entitled: ‘This house believes that green energy is not worth the carbon it takes to produce’. After a heated discussion, Duncan won the debate with his positive views on renewable energy. 

An alternative event also runs alongside the OFC called the Oxford Real Farming Conference (OFRC). It was set up to discuss good food; a secure and beautiful countryside and plenty of satisfying jobs.

Member Becca Watkins attended the event and joined Julie Ingram of the Countryside and Community Research Institute and Robert Jeffery from NewLandOwner to lead an impassioned discussion on family farming.

Becca said: “We highlighted, both from personal experience and scientific research, the many unique and important features of family farms. I went on to discuss how, although many agree that family farms are desirable, the practicalities of living and working with your relatives are not always appealing to young people.”

Becca went on to suggest some possible approaches to solving these issues, which included training and new opportunities such as share farming, and diversifying the farm business to accommodate more partners.

“The most important aspect I felt was improving family communication, for instance using allocated time and space for business discussions, separating it from the family's personal time. We acknowledged that a cultural change is needed to allow older farmers to retire and pass on their land sooner, while trusting that young farmers and new entrants are suitably skilled.”

For more information about the Oxford Farming Conference, click here and for the Oxford Real Farming Conference, click here.

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