National Federation of Young Farmers' Clubs

Fun, Learning, and Achievement

28 July 2021

A late starter to YFC, soft fruit grower Dan Hawes wasted no time in getting involved in the YFC AGRI group to learn more about the industry. With the pandemic thwarting most physical connections, he’s looking forward to experiencing YFC in person again soon!

Q. Are you involved in farming? 

I’ve always been around and involved in the agricultural industry, living in a rural village, and frequent visits to the relatively small 100-acre family farm (mainly arable) ran by my uncle just outside the village. Harvest was (and still is!) my favourite part of the year. 

My first proper job was on another farm on the outskirts of the village, I use to cycle up on a Saturday, aged 13, to help collect eggs at weekends, cut the grass and help with other tasks. Looking back, I was paid well for my age, and was so busy earning that I never really had the chance to spend it. I’ve always worked on a farm, ranging from a livestock producer to a large arable unit.

Q. Tell us about your career? 

As the family farm is fairly small, I always knew I’d have to forge my own career. Coming from east Anglia, the home of cereals, the dream was to work up to farm management. Going to university at Harper Adams to study Agriculture and Crop Management was a chance to help on this route, improve knowledge and open some doors. 

During the first year a lecture on fresh produce swayed my interests from management to agronomy – fast paced, intensive production cycles seemed more interesting. 

Combining both interests led to my current graduate role on the back of a placement year for a large innovative soft fruit grower in Kent, aiming towards a grower role. There’s lots of things going on, working with some great people and we do some really interesting things, especially with the recent automation/robotics being developed. 

The weather rarely plays ball but it’s nice to be out and about in the different fields and locations, and although it’s usually a team effort, the satisfaction of seeing what you’ve been part of is great! 

I’ve been here long enough now that I’ve helped most fields in some stage of production, from building polytunnel sites to strawberry planting, I enjoy seeing the crops progress.  

Q. Why did you join YFC AGRI?  

I wanted to get more involved and it seemed like an interesting role to keep up to date with things going on in the wider industry. If I’m honest, much of what’s discussed isn’t my area of expertise (unless its crops related) but it’s good to gain a wider perspective of other relevant issues and chip in with thoughts where I can. 

I have found the visiting speakers interesting, especially those involved with the new ELM and New Entrants Schemes, and the chance to share feedback on Defra proposals and designs. It’s great that young farmers can get our voice heard in industry. 

I enjoyed meeting meet some of the YFC AGRI group at Cereals this year, and hopefully we can get some physical meetings in soon.

Q. What role do you think the group plays in NFYFC? 

It’s important for consolidating views from clubs around the UK into a central channel, which can then be used to share the opinion of young farmers with industry. For example, I was involved in the gene editing consultation response from YFC AGRI. I’m just an ordinary young farmer, yet here I am contributing to significant national issues/policy changes for the future of our industry. Never thought I’d be doing that.

Q. Has YFC helped you in your career? 

I first got involved when I moved to the area for a university placement year. Having joined at an older age, and then most of that time being in a pandemic, I’ve certainly not been able to gain the full experience! It has been really helpful for making friends after moving to a new area, and of course, the various contacts along the way.

Q. Have you remained connected to your YFC during the pandemic?

Zoom meetings never really worked for our club – we tried a couple but it just wasn’t the same. Fortunately, many of the chat groups have been active and are usually entertaining! As a small open club it was nice to meet together properly when restrictions allowed, and we recently took part in the scaled back Kent County Summer Fayre with many of the open clubs showing livestock and hosting a couple of other events, which were a great success! It was nice to be at a show and doing something sociable.



 


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