National Federation of Young Farmers' Clubs

Fun, Learning, and Achievement

YFC Made Me… confident to be a national magazine editor

At 33, Andrew Meredith is the youngest-ever Farmers Weekly editor to lead the flagship title in its 87-year history and only the tenth person to hold the position. Andrew reveals how YFC is responsible for his successful move into a career in journalism

My life has been, in a large way, a series of fortunate errors.

When you’re young and making decisions about your education, it can feel as if you have to pick a path and stick to it. But, as I have learnt, there are so many opportunities that come your way that you can never foresee. Things happen by accident sometimes and it’s why having the confidence to be able to grab those opportunities is so important.

YFC gave the shy 12-year-old me a massive confidence boost that has supported me throughout my life. I joined Llanbadarn Fynydd YFC in Radnor back in 2000 and never looked back. I was an only child, living on a beef and sheep upland farm on the outskirts of the village. It was a small club but tight knit, which meant you were thrown into everything pretty early on.

My first experience of competing at stockjudging didn’t go too well. I was there, knees knocking together, words not coming out right, and then the judge burst out laughing at me. It was absolutely mortifying. A tough start. But the only way was up!

What I discovered I really excelled at – and what has given me skills that I still use today – was public speaking. I have always been interested in public affairs. We were a household without a television but from an early age I was imbued by the voices on the radio during the 6pm news every evening. To have an outlet for sharing that sort of information was brilliant and where I saw my first success.

I enjoyed Brainstrust the most – the rebuttal, thinking around the issues, having the next question ready and really interrogating a topic are all skills a journalist needs too. Not that I realised at the time, but it was a great grounding for my career. During my placement year of my agriculture degree at university, I was based on a farm in Pembrokeshire so I joined Eglwyswrw YFC to meet some people in the area and I competed with them too. Taking part in these competitions was where I discovered there were so many more things I could do – that’s something YFC gives so many quiet, country people.

If it hadn’t been for the 2012 Annual Convention in Torquay, I might not be where I am today. Farmers Weekly advertised for a YFC member to keep a diary of their Convention experience to include in the magazine. I applied and won.

It was my first foray into journalism, and I was bitten by the writing bug. After the event, I kept pitching ideas to Tim Relf – the Farmlife editor at the time – until in the end he gave me my own column.

I did the Guild of Agricultural Journalists John Deere training award to sharpen up my writing, and I chose Farmers Weekly for my work placement. By the end of the week, I was asked to apply for a role as an arable reporter.

I was blown away by the opportunity. Offers like that don’t come along very often so I knew I had to try. I was a big part of the farm business at home and, like many children in farming families, had been groomed to take up the reins of our 280-acre farm in the future. I am grateful to my parents though as they never put me under pressure to stay. I took the job and moved to London.

There are so many things that are a culture shock about moving to London. I set off in my car, seats piled high with all my stuff on a late afternoon in September. It was dark and raining by the time I was sat on the M25 trying to make my way to the Croydon exit. I have a vivid memory of all the lights from the traffic and the road and, as I was driving under the Heathrow flight path, the planes going overhead every 40 seconds. I thought, ‘what the hell have I let myself in for?’ It was exciting but terrifying.

I’d originally set out to study law at university, as I’d read a few John Grisham novels and thought it sounded like a good way to make a living. It wasn’t. I found my first year at university intolerable and at 19 felt like I’d ruined my life by choosing the wrong subject. I hadn’t. None of the decisions you make at that age – with very few exceptions – are truly life altering. It’s only with the blessing of a few more years under my belt that I realised that.

The Farmers Weekly job in 2016 was the right offer at the right time and I am so grateful to Farmers Weekly for putting their confidence in me and having a punt. We always say down here, we end up teaching farmers how to write or teaching journalists about farming – and both are challenging.

The whole team, but particularly the arable team – Richard Allison and David Jones – taught me so much about what it is to be a journalist and how to write. As a livestock farmer, I needed to learn an enormous amount about arable farming. Farmers Weekly also paid for me to get my NCTJ qualification, which gave me a huge amount of confidence as I felt like I wasn’t a farmer who could write a bit, I was a proper journalist.

At the start of 2021, amid a lockdown, I was appointed the position of editor of Farmers Weekly. I am the youngest ever editor of the magazine and I feel very fortunate they chose me. Our owners the Mark Allen Group had a clear idea of what they wanted in their next editor – and they were happy to promote youth over experience.

Like a lot of big jobs, you feel like you are the custodian of the role – you don’t define the role, the job is bigger than you. I want Farmers Weekly to be the trusted home of debate about the biggest issues of the day. And there are a lot of big questions to debate at the moment. 

It was a challenging time to become an editor as we were in lockdown and working remotely. The last time my colleagues saw me, I was a deputy business editor and then I popped up on Teams as their editor! It’s been a learning curve for us all but they have been brilliant. 

What YFC taught me is that, despite my childhood and despite being that bookish introvert, I am actually a people person. I don’t think I fully appreciated this until I moved to Farmers Weekly. That team environment in the office, the challenge of building a relationship every time you do a story with someone, extracting that information and making friends with them – every person is like a puzzle to unpick. I love meeting people and could never go back to farming now unless I was working with a really big team.

As a manager, the dynamic has changed as I was pals with everyone on the team but now I have to hold people to account. But you still find yourself using those YFC skills every day – it equips you and gives you confidence when those more difficult conversations are needed.

YFC has definitely given me more than I have given it. I feel I am still in its debt to this day. 


 

National Young Farmers' Week 2021AGRI Forum 2021YFC Made Me...YFC Made Me - Ellen HelliwellYFC Made Me - Rebecca PowPromote your YFCYFC Made Me – Andrew Meredith

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