24 September 2015
11 of us have returned in one piece after two weeks in Rajasthan, a state in North West India. We didn’t know each other before meeting at the airport, but after 6 months of organising and emailing, it turned out that being a young farmer made us great friends instantly. These friendships strengthened as we chopped crops by hand in 35 degree heat, compared toilet arrangements, attempted to organise an international game of cricket, frequently performed The Macarena and travelled through giant potholes whilst avoiding cows in the road.
As part of the YFA Travel Scheme, we spent two weeks volunteering in the village of Devghuda, about an hour from the city of Jaipur. We stayed with host farming families in this village that had never had Westerners as guest before. We were treated as celebrities, constantly being photographed and invited round for tea. However our purpose was to learn and share about culture, farming and to help teach English in some schools and the community.
India was described to us as the 3 C’s – Colour, Culture and Chaos. Being a Hindu region, we were welcomed to the village in a ceremony where we received the first of many bright flower garlands, as well as some paint and rice on our heads. This is just a slight indication of the amazing hospitality we were to receive throughout our stay and was a clear demonstration of how Hinduism and tradition largely dictates the daily routine of the people we met. Our routine, although a little spontaneous at times depending on rain downpours, cows in the road, or a request from another village to meet us, consisted of helping our host families on their farms in the morning. Typically this began with hand milking buffalo, cows and goats at around 4.30am, followed by chopping fodder by hand and carrying it back to feed the animals, on our heads. We also helped to weed a variety of crops such as tomatoes and peanuts. Families typically grow what the need for their livestock, and then a supplementary crop they can eat or sell. Crop rotation is widely practiced, and wheat is a common sight as it feeds the people and the animals. We saw differing levels of technology in use as government subsidies filter through to the most rural areas, but without a constant electricity supply and a lack of training most jobs are done by hand, and as the culture orders, this is mostly done by the women.
After washing off the morning sweat using a bucket of rain water, and after eating some chapatti and spicy vegetables, we would visit a school and teach some basic English to infants, or practice conversations and pronunciation with seniors. We then painted a classroom in the local school, along with a stage and some of the outside areas. Often this was interrupted by a game of cricket or crowd of children wanting to play but we got it done in time and are happy to have left a physical presence in the village.
Our evenings were filled with fun social activities, ranging from visiting gorgeous temples where monkeys, elephant and camels roamed. Or cooking traditional food on dried dung fires, and learning to put on saris, turbans and henna. Most memorable though was the dancing, at every opportunity, whether it was to laugh at us or with us, we attempted to dance to Indian pop music. Luckily this meant we were all tired enough to sleep through the hot nights and be ready to start again the next day. We also had a weekend off from the farms and visited the stunning Taj Mahal, as well as the Amber Fort in Jaipur. The craftsmanship in these architectural feats was incredible and travelling along the roads let us see a variety of landscapes of the area as well as spotting monkeys on mopeds, buffalo in jeeps and people on top of buses.
We would all highly recommend a trip with NFYFC travel, especially staying with families, living a different way of life, meeting new friends and making hilarious memories!
2016's volunteering trip will be in Jamaica. The trip will take place between 6th and 20th August and there are 10 spaces available for YFC members aged between 18 and 30. Click here for more information about the trip.
07 September 2015
Staffordshire Young Farmer Peter James made history at this year’s NFYFC Farm Skills competition weekend – by becoming the first member to win Senior Stockman of the Year two years running.
“People have won it more than once but there are no names consecutively on the trophy,” said the Leek YFC member.
Peter (pictured right) beat off competition from 16 other finalists at the event held at Harper Adams on 5 and 6 September.
But he had no idea that he would be able to successfully defend his title.
“It was a completely new batch of competitors,” said Peter. “I think there was only me and one other who were also finalists last year, so it was impossible to judge how good this year’s group was going to be compared to last year’s.”
Competitors had to submit a written project on herd management ahead of the weekend when they were tested on their knowledge. They were also interviewed by a vet on their knowledge of combatting problems in animals before judging livestock in beef, breeding sheep, dairy and pig categories.
Peter, who works on his dad’s beef farm and also works two days a week in the family butcher and abattoir, was able to put his workplace skills to good use. “I rear them, kill them and sell them,” he said. “I didn’t really do much practice ahead of the competitions but the experience in the job helps.”
In the Junior Stockman of the Year category, Herefordshire FYFC member Megan Watkins picked up first place.
Megan (pictured right) has competed in several stockjudging competitions and recently came second in the national dairy stockjudging finals at this year’s Great Yorkshire Show.
As well as judging four rings of stock, competitors had to complete a veterinary questionnaire and identify cuts of meat.
Megan, from Craswall YFC, came out top with 509 out of a possible 600 marks.
She said: “I have always enjoyed stockjudging. Most of my knowledge comes from our family livestock farm where we breed pedigree Texels and calf British blue and Lim heifers to sell in the spring.”
Pembrokeshire’s Llyfyfran YFC has a strong tradition in the Efficiency with Safety competition and this is the second time that the team of Caryl Bevan, her brother Rhys, Berwyn Warlaw, and Alistair Lawren has won the National final in three years.
Thanks to support from Massey Ferguson, Kuhn Farm Machinery and Honda, teams had to deal with a practical first aid task in a staged farm accident as well as practical tasks on a tractor, plough, hedgecutter and quad bike.
It was the first year the Devon team (pictured right) had entered the Fence Erecting competition but Jordan Ford made a winning team with his cousin David Ford and friend Richard Burrows, all from Witheridge YFC. “To be honest, we haven’t really had time to practice but David and I work for my dad’s fence contracting company and Richard is a carpenter, so those skills have helped a bit.
“Everyone at the club was really proud – this is the first time that they have won it.
“I’d like to congratulate all the other counties who made it to the nationals final, and say a big thank you to the judges who gave up their Sunday for us, Harper Adams for letting us hold it there, and also Betafence who supplied the fencing materials.”
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