National Federation of Young Farmers' Clubs

Fun, Learning, and Achievement

12 May 2011

Practical measures for the next generation of farmers, seizing opportunities presented by the London 2012 Olympics and a positive attitude are vital in the promotion of British agriculture say Young Farmers’ Clubs members.

Debating the topic with a host of industry representatives at the NFYFC agriculture & rural affairs forum at Blackpool’s Winter Gardens at the weekend, delegates discussed practical ways in which to better promote the industry to a wider audience.

Natural England chairman Poul Christensen said that YFC was the best UK rural youth group and told the forum that, as farmers of the future, members should be concerned with our natural resources – the need to understand exactly what sustainability means and promoting the wider issues of farming and agriculture using all means available to them.

Suggestions from Young Farmers' Clubs members included use of technology and media, raising money to help promote the industry and being part of retailers' promotional activity. They were well aware of the need for sustainable farming and the need for a positive attitude in the industry.

Staffordshire YFC’s Harriet Wilson told the forum that, along with social networking sites, barcode apps for smart phones which showed the origin of food and where it was grown, could be one way of using technology to promote farming. “Retailers are targeting consumers via social networking, maybe this is something we can harness to promote British farmers,” she suggested.

Langport YFC’s Steve Vincent asked: “How many people know where their food comes from? Children are the consumers of the future and we need to engage with them now and make sure they appreciate where their food is coming from.”

“The assumption that teachers understand agriculture is a false one,” and Somerset YFC’s James Baker added: “We need to teach children more about where their food comes from. Capturing the older audience is a lot harder because children are more likely to ask questions.”

Joining the debate was National Federation of Women’s Institutes chairwoman Ruth Bond, who said NFYFC should join forces with other organisations such as the WI, Natural England and teacher training unions; support initiatives such as the Red Tractor logo, and the campaigns to use British and local producers, and do more to spread the word to the public and consumers using all media. “Young farmers are obviously passionate about what they do. Don’t miss the opportunity to join with other groups out there and tackle the issues that matter to you.”

Sainsbury’s head of agriculture Annie Graham stressed the need to grasp the huge opportunity for promoting both local food and British farming standards presented by next year’s London Olympics.

Gloucestershire YFC chairman Chris Bateman said: “Farming has to retain its image and allow people to take pride in where the food comes from. We have a huge chance to show athletes consuming British food, they are at the top of their profession and their image could mean a lot.”

Practical measures both for new entrants and those looking to retire are needed to help young people into agricultural careers. President of the European Young Farmers group CEJA Joris Baecke described as ‘alarming’ the fact that 30 per cent of Europe’s farmers are over 65 while less than six per cent are under 35, stating: “All over Europe there are young people who are ambitious, passionate and see opportunities, but there are challenges to them getting started. Who is going to provide all the important things society requires – food, maintaining rural areas, biodiversity and mitigating climate change if it’s not the next generation of farmers?”

NFU deputy president Meurig Raymond echoed the need for assistance in the form of financial measures and for the government and banks to help remove some of the barriers facing new entrants, including access to high levels of working capital required by business start-ups and more competitive loan rates, in tandem with a retirement scheme allowing older farmers to exit the industry. “There are people locked into the system because they can’t afford to retire,” he said.

Poul Christensen went on to acknowledge that young farmers did face challenges but the ‘awesome’ responsibility of having to provide food for a growing population was also an exciting place to be and that complaining was not the answer.

Urging them to avoid the ‘whinging’ in the wider industry and take a lead in promoting agriculture as an exciting and professional career he stressed: “The future is in your hands, don’t go to government and ask for more subsidy, just do it. There’s some really sexy kit on farms that should be used to appeal to youngsters interested in technology; tell media organisations you are the future and have ideas. Work with retailers, tell them your produce is better and show them you can deliver.”


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