National Federation of Young Farmers' Clubs

Fun, Learning, and Achievement

30 September 2020

Recycling on farm resources and staying local were among the winning ideas from the recent YFC Climate Challenge, organised by The National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs (NFYFC), Championing the Farmed Environment (CFE) and the NFU.

The challenge, which was supported by Defra, asked people to record a three-minute video sharing ideas that could help the industry reach its ambition of net zero emissions by 2040.

William, 15, from a mixed beef and arable farm in Herefordshire and Elliot Cole, 19,  from a poultry and beef farm in Devon came up with the winning ideas and both got the chance to meet the NFU team to discuss them in more detail.

William, who won the under-18 category, explained that on his family farm, they had focused on keeping everything local – using wood from the local forest and manure and slurry from the local dairy farmer to help build up organic matter in the soil. 

They have also changed their livestock from a commercial beef breed to traditional Hereford cattle, and intend to use a local abattoir and sell their meat in the surrounding areas.

Judges liked how William had not only identified the carbon benefits of what’s already happening in the family business but was also looking to the future both on and off the farm.

William was surprised to hear his idea had won but says he is definitely paying more attention to climate change and believes everyone should do more where they can.

“If there’s something more economically, environmentally and socially sustainable then I go for that option. We are going to need to do something over the next 20 years otherwise we’re just going to be a melting pot,” said William.

It’s a sentiment shared by Elliot from Devon who is currently studying Agriculture Business Management at Reading University. A range of ideas on his family’s poultry and beef farm, based on closed-loop farming, are making their business more sustainable.

Litter from his 120,000 chickens is used as fuel for their on-farm biogas plant. In return the heat that’s produced there dries the woodchip from sustainable local forests and is used as fuel in their biomass boilers to heat the sheds.

There’s a similar operation for manure from the bulls – where it goes into the biogas plant to produce natural fertiliser to grow the barley to feed the bulls. They have cut their artificial fertiliser consumption by 99% and are encouraging neighbouring farms to do the same.

“This is beneficial as less resources are put into growing feedstock for the biogas plant and these can be used to improve production,” explained Elliot who is also a beneficiary of a Prince’s Countryside Fund and Jordan’s bursary for sustainable agriculture. “Using waste products such as manure means the whole system is much more efficient.”

Elliot’s 350-400-acre farm is powered by an on-farm wind turbine and the biogas plant and they have applied for grants from The Woodland Trust to plant more trees to encourage more wildlife and carbon storage.

Judges said: “We really liked how Elliot used what was happening on his farm across all three net zero pillars to bring the NFU’s ambition to life to inspire others. He showed an insightful understanding of the importance of encouraging farming neighbours and the wider industry to take action and his entry was very well presented.”

The success of this first climate challenge has encouraged organisers to involve other nations in the search for ideas. The Climate Challenge is now open again for entries for over 18s in Northern Ireland and Scotland – and more young farmers are encouraged to enter from England and Wales with a chance to influence the world’s biggest climate change conference, the United Nations’ COP26 on 1-12 November 2021.

Elliot, whose video will automatically be entered into the next round of the competition, added: “The more people talking about climate change, the more likely that action is going to happen. Everyone really needs to be in the same mindset to make a difference. We’re all in it together.”

To enter the Climate Challenge visit the website here for more details. Entries close on 13 December 2020. 


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