There's an exciting weekend ahead for Durham YFC's Janice Baker as her son, Countryfile presenter Matt Baker is through to the finals of Strictly Come Dancing, which begins at 7pm on Saturday 18 December on BBC One.
Teamed with professional dancer Aliona Vilani, the
TV host has gone through a nerve-wracking semi-final weekend. Matt's salsa on Friday was described as 'an attack by a veloceraptor'. But on Saturday night he tangoed into the
finals with two perfect tens. He now has to learn four dances for the final challenge.
Matt, a former Blue Peter presenter, has won
two BAFTAs for Best Children's presenter. He was born in Durham where he
grew up on his family's sheep farm. He currently presents Countryfile
and writes for the Countryfile magazine.
Matt is a big supporter of YFC and has helped with judging and other events and competitions. The former British gymnast's mum, Janice, is Durham YFC's county organiser.
“The trip of a lifetime”, was how Staffordshire YFC's Alex Mackellar described the visit to New Zealand she won through the educational grant supported by Novartis Animal Health and the National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs.
Alex spent three weeks working on sheep and cattle stations on New Zealand’s South Island, and brought back with her a wealth of experience about farming methods and the skills needed to run the country’s vast livestock concerns.
She began by accompanying a vet visiting farms in the Darfield and Kirwee areas, west of Christchurch, health-checking rams to ready them for market.
By the third day she had started at the 16,000-acre Rainbow Station where the hard work began for real and found herself waist-deep in water helping cattle cross a river in the snow.
Alex then spent some time sightseeing with a visit to New Zealand’s highest peak, Mount Cook, and then went on to Haldon Station, five hours' journey south of Christchurch. Haldon is a sheep, beef and deer farm of more than 55,000 acres, with Merinos, pedigree Hereford and Angus stud.
She said that with the Merinos, because of the wrinkles in their skin which hold sweat and the thickness of the wool and its value, extra care had to be taken to protect from flystrike. “I know from home we need to protect our stock even before flies are in the area, and it was good to see there is no difference in New Zealand, welfare is top of the list,” she said.
“I think a trip of this kind is much more interesting than going somewhere as a tourist. You get to experience New Zealand as a New Zealander, so you get things from a different perspective,” she said.
Alex, who works on her parents’ farm in Chartley, near Stafford, saw the scholarship advertised in NFYFC's newsletter Ten26. She submitted her 1,000-word essay on why she wanted to apply, was short-listed and interviewed.
“My advice for anyone thinking of applying is to go for it. If you don’t try for it, you won’t know if you have a chance, “she said. “The trip was a fascinating experience and something I will never forget. I’ve learned a lot about my work, the way the animals are looked after, and the medicines used to treat animals. But I suppose most of all I’ve learned about myself,” she said.
Alex is engaging in a series of talks to farmers and discussion groups in her area, and will be submitting a 2,000 word report on parasite control and anthelmintic resistance in the New Zealand sheep industry to Novartis Animal Health and NFYFC.
James Crawford, of Novartis Animal Health, said: “The educational grant encourages new and much-needed young people into the sheep industry, while at the same time providing an opportunity for UK sheep producers to learn, through Alex’s experiences, more about how they can better control parasites on farm.”
YFC member Beth Cooper was one of five postgraduate agricultural
students from across the UK selected to receive a new Centenary Award
from the NFU Mutual Charitable Trust.
The award, launched to celebrate the trust's100th birthday, is giving
annual bursaries to pay 75 per cent of course fees for selected
postgraduate students in agriculture.
Beth Cooper, studying sustainable agriculture( MSc), at Harper Adams
University College, is among the first students to receive the new
award, set up to help create a long-standing legacy for the future, and
highlight NFU Mutual Charitable Trust's commitment to the countryside.
The award was open to students from the UK who had gained, or were
expected to gain, a 2:1 or above in agriculture or a closely related
degree, and had been accepted on a Masters or PhD course in agriculture
in the UK from Autumn 2010.
To select the students the award’s judging panel looked for applicants
who were not only excellent academic performers, but were also committed
to the future of agriculture. The objective was to select potential
rural leaders of the future, so that the bursary payments will not only
help the individual students, but also benefit the agricultural industry
The Centenary Award is a long-term scheme, and bursaries will be
available in 2011. Applications for the award next year will be invited
from the start of January 2011.
In the meantime, prospective postgraduate agricultural students who
would like to find out more about the award should contact
Tributes have been paid to a Staffordshire farming stalwart, who has died
aged 81 following a lifetime of dedicated work to agriculture, YFC and rural life.
Ken Unwin, MBE, died on 6 December following an illness and tributes
have been paid to the man who was regarded as “the father figure” of
The livestock farmer, of Whiston, Stoke-on-Trent, is survived by his
wife Lilly, son Kenneth and family, and was respected by those in
agriculture across the country.
His son Kenneth said: “Dad was a friend to young and old alike,
he was a true countryman who knew what hard work was and lived for his
family, farm and livestock.
“He loved the fact that his main business was also his hobby and always
said there was nothing better than breeding and rearing quality beef
“He was passionate about bringing on the next generation of farmers and
his other great love in life was tug of war.
“He trained numerous teams during his lifetime, winning national
competitions up and down the country.”
Mr Unwin was a long-serving Kingsley parish councillor, representing
Whiston since 1964, and was honoured in the Queen’s Birthday Honours
list last summer with an MBE for services to rural communities in
A grandfather, he held all senior positions within Staffordshire NFU
after joining the Blythe Bridge and Cheadle branch more than 40 years
ago and was also a pivotal figure working with the Staffordshire
Federation of Young Farmers' Clubs.
He was heavily involved with Cheadle YFC, and went on to be president and
honourary life president of Staffordshire YFC.
David Beswick, Staffordshire YFC honorary life president, said: “Our
Ken, or Uncle Ken, as he was affectionately known by YFC members from
across the county will be sadly missed.
“He trained countless stock judging, tug of war and public speaking
teams during his lifetime association with Staffordshire YFC.
“We were all so proud when the Queen recognised him with the MBE last
Mr Unwin lived at Whiston for more than 50 years and was heavily
involved with the village church, St Mildred’s, where he was a church
warden and was highly regarded by the community.
Waterhouses livestock farmer Clive Langford-Mycock, a former
Staffordshire NFU chairman, said there was not another member of the
agricultural industry who had worked harder representing the interests
of farmers and the rural community.
He said: “Ken was without doubt the father figure of farmers in
Staffordshire and had the respect of farmers from all walks of life.
“We will miss him greatly and this is a huge loss to the county and all
those who knew him.”
David Collier, West Midlands NFU regional director, said it had been a
privilege to know Ken and added he had made a substantial contribution
and been a real influence to those he met.
He said: “He was dedicated, hard working and passionate about rural life
and the farming scene and anyone that knew Ken will be deeply saddened
by this news.
“Our thoughts are with Lilly and the rest of his family at this
London plays host to the Olympics in 2012 and Britain’s attention will be turned to celebrating sporting achievement, health and fitness.
And to mark the occasion NFYFC’s competitions committee voted in October to follow an Olympics theme for the competitions programme for the year.
New for the year is jump rope and you can check out the video below to jump start ideas for your own competition routine!
The cookery and floral arts finals will also be appropriately themed, and it is now your chance to help shape the final line-up.
The draft programme has been published for your feedback in the competitions section of the NFYFC website.
Please let us know what you would like to see in the rules for the individual competitions, and if there are any competitions you have particularly enjoyed in your counties that you would like to substitute in place of one on the draft list.
Email your comments and suggestions to NFYFC operations manager James Eckley on firstname.lastname@example.org before the deadline of Thursday 3 February.