National Federation of Young Farmers' Clubs

Fun, Learning, and Achievement

24 June 2020

Walking the crops alone and only speaking to customers by telephone has made Tom Pope’s job as an agronomist a much lonelier one. But the Somerset County Chairman is grateful he has been able to continue working through the pandemic – and believes online YFC meetings are here to stay!

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

I work as an agronomist in Somerset, Dorset and Devon. My job involves me checking farmers’ crops and advising how to look after them in a way which can maximise the yield and quality of the crop. I advise on fertiliser, sprays, seed, soil health and also legislation. I get to manage my own time and it is my responsibility to try and increase the area that I advise on. I really enjoy working with farmers to improve their yields and make their farms more profitable.

Q. Has the Coronavirus impacted your work?

In a lot of ways, it has been business as usual for me. Obviously crops don't stop growing, especially in the spring and early summer which is my busiest time, so I've had to keep going as well. What has been different is normally some of my farmers come out to walk the crops with me or I will go and catch up with them at the farm after I have done so. With the restrictions I've had to walk the crops by myself and dealt with all of my customers purely over the phone which has been strange, it's been quite common for me to not see anyone else from when I leave in the morning until I get home at night. But generally I've been very lucky that I've been able to carry on as usual.

Q. Are you from a farming family?

I grew up on our family arable farm in Somerset and now live just down the road from it. The farm was mainly tenanted until two years ago. Our landlords sold up and we took the decision to buy some of the farm, but unfortunately it’s not of a viable size to be purely arable so we are exploring diversification. The latest addition to the business is an enclosed dog walking area which people pay to rent for an hour at a time.

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

I feel proud to work in such a crucial industry. I think that the panic buying at the start of the crisis really made people think about where their food came from and the people involved in the supply chain. I think the whole industry has stepped up to the plate and done what we do best in producing great quality food for the British people.

Q. Why did you want to be involved in YFC AGRI?

I wanted to be involved with YFC AGRI because I am passionate about the agricultural industry and wanted to make a difference. There are so many issues facing young people living in the rural community and I'd like to think the things YFC AGRI get involved in can help address some of these.

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

It has been a learning curve but we've stayed connected. I've lost count of the number of Zoom calls I've been on and these have ranged from serious meetings to quizzes and treasure hunts. We've also been running some online competitions as a County Federation which have been great fun.

I’ve also been involved in YFC AGRI Zoom meetings every other week, which has kept me in touch with what’s going on in the industry.

Q. How has the pandemic impacted your role as County Chairman?

As mentioned, we've got used to Zoom meetings very quickly. I think we've realised that although virtual get togethers will never fully replace face-to-face meetings – we have the option to hold them online sometimes. I think we'll get better attendance at the online meetings too, as Somerset is a large county and travelling to meetings can take up a lot of time and some people struggle to get to them if they finish work late. 

24 June 2020

A successful application for funding has helped Craswall YFC's members improve their hedgelaying skills and put them top of the county at a hedging match earlier in the year.  

New chainsaws, safety kit, essential hedgelaying tools and training were purchased by Craswall YFC after they were awarded £16,000 to help them preserve the rural craft of hedgelaying.

The club, which is on the Welsh-Herefordshire border, successfully applied to the Black Mountains Land Use Partnership’s (BMLUP) stipend funding last year to support their passion for hedgelaying. The club went on to win Herefordshire FYFC’s annual hedging match for the 10th consecutive year in January. 

Club Secretary Emily Pritchard said: “The training and experience have created more confident young hedgelayers who can now safely and competently lay hedges and have become part of the movement to keep this traditional rural craft alive.

“The hedgelaying activities, and YFC in general, has helped the mental health and wellbeing of our members as well in what can often be an isolating and lonely environment for younger people. Craswall YFC are incredibly grateful to the BMLUP for giving us the chance to extend our work with hedgelaying and are proud to be a part of preserving this beautiful rural skill and craft in the Black Mountains and beyond for many years to come!”

Traditionally in the Welsh-Herefordshire border, hedgerows are made up of hazel, blackthorn, hawthorn and holly, which suit the Breconshire-style of hedgelaying. All members of the club now have chainsaw certificates and have received training from three former Craswall members who were also champion hedgers – Mark Pritchard, Neville Powell and Brian Price. The trio trained members every Sunday in January to give them more practical knowledge. 

“Being able to create natural habitats for birds and other wildlife is just one of the many benefits of hedgelaying,” said Emily. “It’s a skill that has been passed down through generations. It is of vital importance that hedge laying and other traditional rural skills are promoted to the younger generations who will be able to carry them on and go on to teach the hedgelayers of the future!”

20 June 2020

Despite the cancellation of many stockjudging competitions, young farmers were still able to practise their skills in NFYFC’s Isolation Stockjudging Challenge, sponsored by Rutland Electric Fencing.

With support from Staffordshire FYFC, members had the chance to judge a ring of beef cattle and a ring of dairy cows. YFC members were asked to state the order of their cattle placings and record their reasons on video or sound file and send them to NFYFC to be judged.

Harriet Wilson and Jake Manning from Staffordshire FYFC judged the online entries and both were impressed by the standard in the three age categories – junior, intermediate and senior.

Harriet said: “The quality of the reasons was outstanding. The competitors made so much effort, with most of them in white coats, shirt and ties. It was extremely hard to mark because the standard was so high. I was quite glad to be out of age and not competing against them!”

William Griffiths from St Clears YFC in Carmarthenshire won the Senior Dairy stockjudging challenge and said he has travelled to the Great Yorkshire Show to take part in the stockjudging finals a few times but never won.

“I enjoyed taking part in this competition virtually, not as much as the real thing but it's the best you could do under the current circumstances. I have been doing stockjudging since I was 13 years old and have come close to winning at the Great Yorkshire Show. This is the next best thing,” said William.

It was a Welsh victory in the Senior Beef category too as Carys Phillips from Llys y Fran YFC from Pembrokeshire took the top spot. Living on a beef and sheep farm gave her an advantagebut, although she has taken part in many stockjudging competitions in YFC, this was her first virtual one!

“Even though it wasn’t the normal way of judging animals it was nice to be involved and show that we are able to still have fun and compete virtually,” said Carys. “It always feels great to win, although it doesn’t happen all the time and taking part is what really counts! If you don’t take part, you have no chance of winning!”

It’s important to put in the practise though, insists Carys, if you want to do well.

“I have been stockjudging for over 14 years and every year I learn something new. Be sure of what you’re saying and convince the judge that you are right. Use your two minutes wisely and remember that the judge is likely to hear many other reasons that day so use that two minutes to make him/her remember yours!”

In the junior dairy category, Thomas Herd from Upper Wharfdale YFC in Yorkshire, came first place and in the junior beef, first place went to Maddie Rousell from Wedmore YFC in Somerset.

The intermediate Dairy stockjudging was won by Megan Phillips from Eardisley YFC in Herefordshire and in the beef category, the winner was Daisy Haigh from Tuxford YFC in Nottinghamshire.

Sponsors Rutland Electric Fencing gave an ESD 1600 Energiser as a prize to each winner of the Challenge.

Tom Royall, Managing Director of Rutland Electric Fencing, said: “With these challenging times I am pleased that we can continue to support the National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs. It is important that the next generation of famers continue these traditions and I hope that normal service will resume very soon.”

For more information about the latest round of Isolation Challenges, see here

11 June 2020

Despite the mounting challenges for the agricultural sector young farmers shared their optimism for the future in an online session hosted by NFYFC at Cereals Live2020.

The evening webinar called What’s on Your Mind? was the final online session of a two-day Young Farmer programme that had been developed in conjunction with YFC AGRI for Cereals.

Chaired by YFC AGRI Chairman George Baxter and supported by Vice Chairman Tom Pope, the discussions involved presentations from Suzy Deeley from RABI and Joe Stanley, a trustee of the Henry Plumb Foundation.

Joe, a third generation mixed lowland arable and beef farmer from Leicestershire, outlined the funding and mentoring support available through the Henry Plumb Foundation for those eager to get on in the sector. When asked about the pressures of Covid-19, alongside the uncertainty of Brexit, a new Agricultural Bill and the introduction of ELMs, Joe admitted it was a “volatile” period for farming but that young farmers gave an overwhelming impression of optimism.

“Meeting other farmers – we’re all can-do people. The shape of farming is going to change and that’s probably to be welcomed in our increased emphasis on the environment.

“We are going to have to fight hard for it and put our arguments forward. I am sure we will win through and have a strong dynamic industry,” said Joe.

Weather conditions and loss of income due to the pandemic are issues that RABI is expecting to impact on farmers as the year progresses. Suzy Deeley from the charity detailed the support they offered and new projects on the horizon – including an online counselling service.

“Covid is going to be a big problem but we encourage people to call,” said Suzy. “We are often thought of as the last port of call but we don’t want to be seen that way. The earlier we can start having a conversation, the better the outcome.”

Suzy also highlighted the impact the pandemic was having on the charity’s ability to fundraise with huge losses predicted this year. 

YFC AGRI Chairman Tom Pope from Somerset FYFC talked about the impact the lockdown was having on YFC and highlighted how young farmers have adapted.

“Being such a social organisation, it has been difficult,” said Tom during the session. “We have learnt a lot from having to do things online. There are some massive positives. It can be onerous as a County Chairman [for example] because of all the meetings you have to go to, which completely takes over your life. Being able to do the odd meeting online has made us realise it can work this way.

“We have also been having regular catch ups with the YFC AGRI group which is good for checking in on people who are feeling lonely. We have evolved into the new situation as young farmers do. But it would be great to get back to the new normal soon.”

With Covid-19 forcing the Cereals event online, organisers have found it has appealed to a new audience. The average online attendance over the two-day virtual event was 20 years younger than those who usually attend the physical outdoor event. Future Cereals events look likely to include more online sessions – a positive step for those who are unable to get to the live event.

For more information about the support available from the Henry Plumb Foundation visit here and for more information about RABI, visit here. 

11 June 2020

An emotive painting showing a young boy trying to touch the hand of an older relative through a window won the YFC Isolation Art Challenge in the 17 and over category at NFYFC’s Challenge Finals Day.

Mary-Ann Screech from Launceston YFC in Cornwall used acrylic on canvas to paint the scene that was inspired by her work as a nurse in a community hospital. 

“Before lockdown came into force, when hospitals were closed to visitors, we did have patients’ relatives standing outside the hospital and talking on the telephone to their loved ones inside, whilst looking at each other through our dayroom windows and holding their hands up to the glass,” explained Mary-Ann who loves arts and crafts projects.

“I wanted to paint something that helped to remind people why we are isolating when we may forget through fear or frustration. Pure and simple – for the love of our families and friends, to protect each other but to also show that we aren't alone. It’s important to remember that even though we may not be able hug each other we can still be there for one another and that’s why I decided on this scene.”

The boy in the painting is based on Mary-Ann’s younger cousin and the adult is her father. While Mary-Ann lives near to several family members, they have all had to keep their distance from each other on their own farms as a few of them are shielding or at a higher risk.

The painting, which received the most votes on Facebook and Instagram out of the five art finalists in the art challenge during NFYFC’s Challenge Finals Day, is currently on the sideboard in Mary-Ann’s sitting room but she’s undecided where it should be permanently housed.

“I’m chuffed about winning,” said Mary-Ann. “But also I have been really touched from the reaction the painting has gained. I have had many messages from people saying how it has resonated with them and that has meant a lot to me.”

In the under 16s category of the art challenge, it was a silhouette cattle scene that was voted into the winning position.

Grace Lee from Bridgnorth YFC in Shropshire has been using her time in isolation to paint landscapes and likes creating sunsets with silhouettes.

“I wanted to incorporate the theme of farming into the one I painted for the isolation challenge so used livestock as the silhouette. I recycled a scrap piece of wood from the pigsty conversions on my uncle’s farm, sanded it down and painted on top of it with acrylic paint,” explained Grace.

“I really enjoy doing art in my spare time, as it’s a way of clearing my head and doing something creative. It’s also a good escape from the heavy science-based subjects I’ve chosen at school.”

The artwork is currently on display at home in Grace’s kitchen and she’s delighted that it was chosen as the winning artwork.

“I’m honoured to have won the isolation challenge particularly as the other entries were very good. It’s nice to know people enjoy my artwork almost as much as I enjoy creating it.”

Both Grace and Mary-Ann have remained in contact with their YFCs during lockdown and have been taking part in local online activities – such as Zoom calls.

Grace said: “As much as the lockdown can be isolating we’ve still been able to keep in touch. At the beginning of April we worked together to create our loo roll challenge video which was great fun to film especially the clips of Bracken my Labrador that I put together.”

“We still have an active group chat,” added Mary-Ann about her club in Cornwall. “I am also really proud to say our members in club have been supporting each other and also the local community too by helping with collecting/delivering urgent shopping supplies/medicine.”

The YFC Isolation Art Challenge proved to be one of the most popular challenges in the recent round and well done to everyone who took part.

Check out the latest isolation challenges here. 

11 June 2020

It was the first time that Ruth Cooper from Cumbria FYFC had made a lamb stroganoff but the winning dish received the most votes during the YFC Isolation Ready, Steady, Cook Challenge final on the Isolation Challenge Finals Day in June.

YFC members were challenged with using a ‘bag’ of British produce to make a meal – in the style of the popular cookery programme Ready, Steady, Cook. Ruth chose the bag that included British lamb, asparagus and eggs. 

“I hadn’t made lamb stroganoff before but I had made a mushroom one a few weeks before the challenge. I slightly altered the recipe I had for that to incorporate the lamb into it and followed a simple egg fried rice recipe to serve with it,” said Ruth whose family got to enjoy the dish she made.

“I really enjoy cooking, it’s something I’ve loved from a young age. I try to cook as often as I can, whether that is my favourite dark chocolate and raspberry brownies or a chicken casserole for the family. I was so surprised when I got picked for the top five finalists, as I had seen so many great entries over the week – they all looked delicious. On the finals day, I was shocked to see so many people vote for me but I’m so thankful they did. I never thought I’d win, so I’m over the moon.”

As well as isolation challenges, Ruth has also recently enjoyed Cumbria FYFC’s virtual field day where all 25 clubs competed in a range of competitions. Ruth added: “I’m looking forward to things going back to normal but I’m just grateful that we can still compete in events like this.”

Lamb Stroganoff with Egg Fried Rice and Steamed Asparagus

Prep Time: 30 mins

Cooking Time: 30 mins

Serves 4


For the stroganoff

  • 500g British diced lamb
  • 1 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 15g salted butter
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 250g baby button mushrooms, halved
  • 200ml crème fraiche
  • ½ tbsp Worcestershire sauce

For the egg fried rice

  • 250g long grain rice
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 2 spring onions, sliced

For the asparagus

  • 500ml boiling water
  • 1 packet of British asparagus stems, sliced ½ way up the middle.
  • A pinch of salt

1. Heat the rapeseed oil in a large frying pan and fry the lamb over a high heat for 2-3 minutes until well browned, but still pink inside. Transfer the lamb to a plate.

2. In the same pan, melt the butter and cook the onion, garlic and mushrooms for 5 minutes until the onion is softened and the mushrooms are lightly browned.

3. Meanwhile, cook the rice following pack instructions, then drain, spread it out to steam-dry and set aside.

4. Return the lamb to the pan and mix in with the vegetables. Then add the crème fraiche and Worcestershire sauce. Leave to simmer for 5 mins.

5. Fill a medium pan with around 2 inches of water, add a pinch of salt and bring to the boil. Put a metal strainer over the pan, so that it doesn’t touch the bottom.

6. Fill the strainer with the asparagus stems and cook for 5-6 mins or until tender. Top up with a splash more water if the pan boils dry.

7. For the egg fried rice, heat 2 tbsp of the oil in a large wok over a high heat, add the onion and fry until lightly browned, around 5 mins. Add the rice, stir and toast for about 3 mins, then move to the side of the pan.

8. Add the remaining oil, then tip in the egg mixture. Leave to cook a little, then mix in with the rice – stir vigorously to coat the grains or, if you prefer the egg chunkier, allow to set for a little longer before breaking up and stirring through.

9. Once cooked, spoon the rice into a serving bowl. Drain the asparagus and add to the bowl. Spoon the stroganoff mixture onto the rice and garnish with some fresh parsley or sage.


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