National Federation of Young Farmers' Clubs

Fun, Learning, and Achievement

21 September 2017

Since becoming president Charlotte Smith has seen the value in belonging to the largest rural youth organisation in the UK 

Kindly reproduced, courtesy of the Sunday Telegraph. First featured in the newspaper on 17 September 2017

‘You don’t have to be a young farmer to be a 'Young Farmer’ – it’s just as well really. I am the proud president of The National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs and I’m neither young nor a farmer! Growing up in rural Leicestershire I was of course aware of the local YFC, but as the daughter of librarians with plans to become a serious actress it never occurred to me to join. And that’s a shame.

Young farmers do all the things you’d expect – learning how to judge a good dairy cow or the best cut of beef  – but they also do a lot of things you’d never expect – public speaking, drama, street dance and tug of war? Oh yes, and cheerleading, football and netball... along with raising more than a million pounds a year for charities and campaigning on issues like farm safety.

But mainly they have a lot, and I do mean a lot, of fun. I’d have loved it when I was young – I’m loving it now I’m older too! I’ve been to a few YFC events – and survived. There is a lot of laughing, and yes once they’re old enough a fair amount of partying. But these young people are very much part of their communities and spend a lot of time trying to improve the lot of rural Britain – 4,000 hours last year to be precise were spent on community projects through NFYFC’s Countryside Challenge – a project funded by Pears and the Cabinet Office.

Young farmers, being the generous sorts they are, have been organising loads of initiatives for the greater community good over the past year. From cleaning village signs to pushing a bed around the local area to raise funds, young farmers have been making their mark. And it’s been appreciated. Feedback from those who are benefiting from their acts of kindness revealed how much of a positive impact their work had on the local community. In the process, these communities also learnt more about young farmers and the fact they are a friendly, hard working bunch!

This summer I took the kids to The Essex Country Show. It’s massive, with everything from sheep to motorbike stunt riders. We, along with 16,000 other people, had a great time. And the whole day is put on by a team of young farmers. Yes, you read that right. A group of people aged from 10 to 26 organise the whole damn thing… they book the venue, the trade stands, organise the car parks, the health and safety, the catering, the bars (best job?) all the painful details of running a big event.  It is a massive commitment of time and energy, and the profits are ploughed back into developing rural young people through the county Federation.  The skills people develop running the show – and the skills other young farmers pick up from running their own clubs – will be with them for ever.

It’s a point that is being highlighted this National Young Farmers’ Week (18-24 September) when its 619 YFCs across England and Wales will be celebrating all that is great about being a member of the largest rural youth organisation in the UK. Chat to any one of the 24,500 members and you’ll not only be amazed at how articulate they are (all that public speaking practice) but also how passionate they are about an organisation that has had a massive impact on their lives - shaping careers and relationships.

It’s certainly the case for 22-year-old Matthew Southall who tells me his student life at Harper Adams has been a hit thanks to YFC, where he’s studying a Rural Enterprise and Land Management degree.  

“YFC opens up a lot of opportunities, and getting involved with the sports and competitions are great ways to meet like-minded people. The Public Speaking competitions have boosted my confidence in talking to people and doing presentations. If it wasn’t for joining YFC, I wouldn’t have gone to university and been where I am now.”

The skills and connections gained through YFC are also working their magic on the rural entrepreneurs too. Just look at Emily Cartmail, 20, who has set up a cake business, backed up by a start-up loan through Staffordshire Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs, and now has a solid client base.

“YFC has helped me immensely with setting up my own business. I came up with the idea of a cake business after a member asked if I could make a farm-themed cake for a family birthday, and since then the orders haven't stopped!  I have picked up so many skills through being an NFYFC member that are helping with my business. Public Speaking gave me the confidence to give a speech, which helped me in the interview section of my grant application. Reaching the national Cookery competition finals for two years has given me the self-belief that I was good enough to do this as a career if I worked hard.”

And it is this confidence that impresses. YFC gives these young people from as young as 10 years old, often living in some of our remotest locations, a chance to have a social life and the opportunity to shine at things they had perhaps never considered. Matthew, for example, found he could throw a few impressive dance floor moves. “YFC members have a ‘get stuck in and give it a go’ attitude," he says. "I found myself performing in the national final of a dancing competition in Blackpool, despite never having danced seriously before."

The opportunities for personal development astound. Not only do they get in front of farming ministers and sit in hefty discussion groups with the likes of Defra, they also get offered bags of training opportunities (great for the CV) and travel experiences. These young people are jetting off to the likes of New Zealand, the USA and Canada, learning about cultures and lifestyles in other rural parts of the world.

So if you’re near a club – give it a go. Doesn’t matter if you’re not a farmer, doesn’t matter if you don’t ever want to be a farmer! If you’re the daughter of librarians with aspirations to be a serious actress then I reckon it’s a great move. 


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