National Federation of Young Farmers' Clubs

Fun, Learning, and Achievement

12 May 2020

Arable farmer Oliver Makintosh from East Riding of Yorkshire FYFC is busy working during the Coronavirus outbreak and hopes that the crisis will at least reconnect people with their local farms.

Q. Can you tell us about the businesses you are involved in?

We have interests in green waste composting, wood recycling, woodchip drying, anaerobic digestion and arable farming. All the businesses are pretty much run as one, with the exception being the anaerobic digester, which is run by a separate company.

My role in the business is to make sure everything is working as it should. This could be anything from relief driving the forage harvester to submitting planning applications.  Any excuse to leave the office is always welcome. Since graduating from University in 2017, I started the woodchip drying, which currently processes ~10,000 tonnes a year.

Q. Has the Coronavirus impacted your work on the farm?

We were due to host the Northern Area Field Day, which has unfortunately been postponed. But this means we aren’t under as much stress to get the whole farm painted and prepared!

The only real difference in terms of workload this year is the lack of green waste coming through the gates, which will help us if we start to have labour shortages on the farming side due to the virus.

Initially there was a mad rush to make sure we had enough wearing metal, seed, fertiliser etc to get us through the outbreak, however many suppliers are still open for business.

My concern is if we start to have labour shortages due to the virus and if restrictions continue, what to do with everyone in our quiet summer months.

Q. What plans have you put in place for your businesses to manage the possible impact of the outbreak?

Due to the high volume of deliveries coming into site we have stopped drivers coming into the weighbridge cabin, and tried to reduce transferring as much paper work as possible.

We stay distanced from each other at break times to minimise any spread. The diversifications we have are still based around key industries so we should be able to keep going with them, as long as nothing worsens.

Q. How do you feel about the essential role British farming is playing during the crisis?

It has amazed me how quickly the rural population have reverted to buying 25kg bags of potatoes from local venders. It is a very good value way of buying produce and the food miles are minimised.

Hopefully this will be replicated with all other UK grown produce – reconnecting the population with local farmers – and will carry on after the virus.

The crisis is showing what a key industry UK agriculture is, as we can be relied on to feed the nation a healthy balanced diet.

Q. Farming can be an isolating job anyway but has the added pressure to isolate further had an impact on you and your family?

My girlfriend's family are isolating so it’s a struggle to drive an hour to wave at her over the garden fence. I normally have two lodgers living with me but, due to their offices being shut, I now live in an empty house, which makes the nights a bit longer. My parents both work with me so I still see them daily. The wider family keep in touch on a WhatsApp group whilst Snapchat is used for cousins.

Q. The public have been concerned about food shortages – what would your message be to people about this?

My message would be to eat sensibly. The UK agricultural sector can supply a balanced diet and after the panic buying that happened originally, supermarkets are relaxing the rules on how much people can purchase. Buy sensibly – perishable items shouldn’t be bought in volumes that are too large to get through. There are already reports of excess food being binned.

Q. Are you managing to stay connected to your YFC at the moment?

As I am on a few committees there are always a few WhatsApp groups buzzing away in the background, keeping me in touch with anything from YFC Agri to Northern Area Field Day. Our Club at home has a Facebook Messenger group that also has a fair bit of activity on it.

Q. What ways are you all supporting each other?

Due to farming being quite an isolated job things are carrying on as normal in this respect. There are still the social media streams that we usually have as well as phone calls and texts. I feel like if I needed anything a fellow YFC member would soon jump in to help out.

If you are working during the Coronavirus outbreak and would like to profile what you are doing, please email NFYFC.

07 May 2020

NFYFC held its first-ever Isolation Challenge Final Day on Saturday 2 May, in conjunction with the Greatest Online Agricultural Show.

The event recognised five finalists from each of the four Isolation Challenges that NFYFC had hosted in the run up to the final. Members of the Competitions Steering Group helped to choose the final five and then it was over to the public to vote on Instagram and Facebook for their winning entries.

Hundreds of people voted on the photos and videos posted throughout the day and the winners were announced by the Competitions Steering Group Chairman Grace Millbank from Northants FYFC at 8pm in the evening.

Among the winners was Trefegwlys YFC’s entry to the talent Challenge, sponsored by Kuhn. The club had created a compilation video of members miming to different songs that represented their lives in isolation.

Club Chairman Aled Rees said: “The inspiration for the video was to give a reflection on how lockdown is in Trefeglwys, with an entertaining twist. The community and the pubic seem to be enjoying the video greatly during these difficult times.”

Vice Chairman Ed Dungait’s table was voted the best transformation in the YFC Isolation Revamp Challenge, sponsored by Tama and it was Tom Skittery’s photo with the NHS marked out in a field that won the Snapshot challenge.

Christopher Bird, from Beacon YFC, entered his Zoom to 2021 poem and won the YFC Isolation Wordsmith Challenge, sponsored by Farmers Guardian. Comments on his entry suggested that Christopher had captured life as it was now for YFC members.

During the event, there was also a Showstopper Challenge – open to anyone to enter as part of the Greatest Online Agricultural Show. There were nearly 100 cakes entered into the challenge and NFYFC President Charlotte Smith judged them.

Kirsty Allan, 27, from Pennine YFC was crowned the winner for her ‘loo roll’ cake and won a hamper of goodies, courtesy of Carter Jonas.

Charlotte Smith said: ‘It has been amazing, I am so impressed by just how good you all are and it has been genuinely difficult drawing up a list of finalists. But the winner, capturing the spirit of the times, is Kirsty with her loo roll cake.”

Kirsty said the design was inspired by everyone panic buying toilet paper during the lockdown and she wanted to make light of it, especially as he club got involved in a loo roll challenge.

A keen baker, Kirsty’s loo roll took four hours to make and she said she felt ‘overwhelmed’ to have won. “I didn’t think I’d stand a chance! There were loads of amazing cakes entered.  A huge well done to everyone.”

NFYFC is now launching four more challenges for YFC members to get involved with over the coming weeks. For more details see here. 

05 May 2020

Farmers are still working through the Covid-19 outbreak, which means so too are the people working in support functions, such as farm vets. Melissa Bexon, from Uttoxeter YFC shares her experience of supporting farm animals and the industry during the crisis.

Q. Why did you want to be a farm vet?

Being a farmer’s granddaughter, I spent most of my weekends at the farm when I was growing up, helping feed the cows and collecting freshly laid eggs. As I grew older, I got more interested in science but still wanted to stay within the animal sector so decided a veterinary career was the way forward. To get into vet school, I had to do several work experience placements, including lambing, milking and calving. There was something about the ethos of farming that I was drawn towards and so getting accepted into the University of Nottingham helped me achieve what I set out to do.

Q. What is an average day like for you?

No day is the same. There isn’t really an average week, let alone an average day. Obviously pre-booked in visits like routine fertility visits and herd/flock health planning shape a lot of what I do on a weekly basis (not forgetting TB testing!), but you can never plan for the emergency work like caesareans and prolapses. To say it is varied work is an understatement!

Q. What changes have you had to make to your work during the Coronavirus?

I work for Westpoint Farm Vets, which are 100% farm-only (and also owned by VetPartners who are responsible for the care of 20% of farm animals in the UK). The organisation has been exceptional and has provided clear guidelines for new working measures (in line with advice from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and the British Cattle Veterinary Association).

All clinical vets are going out on visits from their own homes (the same as if they were on call). We have had to restrict visits to the ones that are classed as essential – i.e. where animal welfare is implicated if we do not go, routine fertility visits and TB testing – anything pertinent to the food chain.

One major thing that we are having to take into serious consideration when going onto farms is adhering to the 2m social distancing regulations and playing our part in helping stop the spread of the virus. This does mean that we have had to adapt what we would normally do, for example, haltering calves for TB testing, rather than have someone hold them.

Q. How do you feel about working in an essential role during the Coronavirus outbreak?

I feel that, as vets, we only play a minor role during this coronavirus outbreak. Yes, we are tending to sick animals that require treatment, or tending to emergency calls, but it is the farmers that are producing the food for our plates. We just help with that wherever we can – be that by doing fertility visits on dairy (and beef) cows, or pre-movement testing animals to be sold for future breeding.

I am very conscious that for many farmers, a vet such as myself could pose the biggest threat to bringing them into contact with coronavirus, so I ensure I wear appropriate PPE, clean and disinfect my equipment thoroughly and maintain social distancing as well as I possibly can. It is a scary time for us all, but we have to work together and keep the country ticking over.

Q. How do you feel about the essential role British farming is playing throughout the crisis and are you proud to be supporting the industry?

I am extremely proud and privileged to support such a strong and dynamic industry. I believe that all farmers, no matter what they are farming, should be recognised for their hard work and dedication that they put into their jobs, their livelihoods 24/7, 365 days a year. Without farmers we would be in a much poorer position and be looking to face much harder times. What I would stress is, we need to all pull together during these uncertain and difficult times and do as much as we can to support British farming.

Q. Have you kept in contact with your YFC and how are they staying connected to members?

Yes I have, I am part of the club committee so our group chats are still ongoing. Many of my friends are either current or past members of YFC, so I do regularly keep in touch with them. Not only this, my sister is the secretary of Uttoxeter JNFU and her boyfriend is the chairman, so I talk to them over WhatsApp to keep in touch.

If you are a key worker and a member of a YFC and would like to be profiled, please email


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