National Federation of Young Farmers' Clubs

Fun, Learning, and Achievement

19 November 2020

Understanding how to develop a profitable and sustainable farming business was the focus of a recent online seminar hosted by The National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs (NFYFC) AGRI group, the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) and the NFU.

The Produce, Protect, Profit event was supported by Defra and was originally due to be held at the GWCT’s Allerton Project in Loddington but was quickly moved online following national lockdown restrictions.

Attendees enjoyed presentations from Dr Alastair Leake, Head of GWCT’s Allerton Project ; John Royle, NFU Chief Livestock Adviser;  Dr Ceris Jones, NFU Climate Change Adviser and Phil Jarvis, GWCT’s Head of Farming, Training & Partnerships, chaired the panel taking questions and suggestions from the next generation audience and providing a virtual farm tour of the Allerton Project Farm.

“The YFC AGRI group has been meeting regularly online and built up a great rapport, so the chance to have an actual event was welcomed,” said YFC AGRI Chair George Baxter. 

“However, the online event opened up the opportunity for next generation farmers to listen and discuss with industry experts and share thoughts, ideas and potential challenges. With topics as far-ranging as global warming, data use and the Environmental Land Management scheme (ELMs), we had some very useful conversations and all points captured will be shared with industry and Defra as more meat is put on the bones of new policy. 

“As Phil Jarvis quite rightly noted, we are the future but also the present.  We’re farming now and have a good idea what will help us to be more productive, regenerative and resilient.”

Using data effectively, producing efficiently and helping to mitigate the effects of climate change are all industry ambitions being considered by young farmers.

Reputation of farming 

Self-confessed ‘policy geek’ John Royle presented on the reputation of the farming industry, consumer attitudes, productivity and the Sustainable Food and Farming Scheme (SFFS). He predicted that the farming industry would be challenged more by the media regarding environmental damage and climate change.

Speaking at the event, John said: “The consumer buys on price but second choice is around health with a perception that red meat isn’t good for you. However, things that influence buying behaviour are changing . The environment and global warming are moving up that agenda, so what can we do to mitigate that and defend our industry?"

The role for farmers in responding to the climate change challenge was tackled by Ceris Jones, the NFU’s climate change adviser. Ceris highlighted the opportunity for farmers and urged them not to feel overwhelmed by the industry challenge to reach net zero.

“Climate change is such as big subject and it may feel that what you do doesn’t make much difference,” said Ceris. “But every farmer has a role to play if we’re going to get to our net zero target. We think we can get there by 2040, and if we’re going to get there we need more farmers than ever before doing things that are good for their business and good for the planet.”

Ceris outlined the ways in which the industry would reach net zero by improving productivity, storing carbon on farmland, and by growing renewable energy and products for the wider bioeconomy.

For those attending the online seminar, a poll revealed that they felt upskilling and training would be most important in making real change on future agri-environment and climate change measures.

ELMs  

Discussions around the introduction of ELMs and the end of the Basic Payments Scheme (BPS) were led by Alastair Leake, as he questioned whether the £3.2bn available at the end of the BPS would be enough.

“Farmers need to produce both food and wildlife and be properly rewarded for both. The £3.2bn may not be enough for all we want and we should not be afraid to spend more –public money for the public good. Any scheme should be farmer driven and simple to apply for,” said Alastair.

For attendees, their view was that equipment, future trade deals and direct marketing to the public would be the top solutions for future profitability of their farming businesses, according to poll results. But it was shows, rallies and events that were flagged as the top activities people wanted to do as soon as some form of normality returns following the pandemic.

A recording of the session is available for those wanting to watch it in full. 



17 November 2020

Clubs and counties looking for an activity over the winter months could help take part in a pilot for an innovative farm self-assessment tool with the 2 Minute Farmer.

The pilot is researching methods to help farmers assess and improve their farms in two-minute bursts and unpack complex issues into bite-sized chunks. The project is spearheaded by Duchy College’s Rural Business School, with support from Agri-tech Cornwall and Isles of Scilly project, which is funded by the European regional development fund.

The tool that 2 Minute Farmer wants to pilot is called the ‘Tractor Wheel of Life’. It’s an interactive self-assessment booklet designed to help farmers to take a step back from the farm and think about how balanced it is.

It breaks farming down into 10 key areas, including topics such as work-life balance, finance and the environment, and then connects them on a wheel like the one shown.

2 Minute Farmer is looking for groups to pilot some virtual sessions based on the wheel and give feedback on it. The session takes around 30 minutes to an hour so a perfect length of time for a club meeting. Even if your club has members that aren’t involved in farming, the session is still a fun opportunity to think about how balanced the club is and is an opportunity to learn more about the different aspects of farming.

There are lots of other research activities and tools 2 Minute Farmer is working on, which you can read about on their website.

In particular, they want people involved in farming to fill out the information in farming survey. This means they can produce more resources in the format you want them in.



12 November 2020

The introduction of the landmark Agriculture Act in England has been welcomed by NFYFC after years of consultation with the farming community, including gathering the views of YFC members.

NFYFC’s Chairman Dewi Parry said: 

“This is a landmark moment for agriculture as this Bill maps out the future of farming in England.

“The new system will affect many YFC members who are involved in farming as well as new entrants looking to succeed in this sector. I commend all of the YFC members who lobbied government about their concerns over food standards. The views of YFC members were also shared with Defra over the last two years within consultation responses and engagement events.

“We also backed the NFU’s campaign to ensure that food production and security was included in this Bill and are indebted to them for their achievements in getting a Trade and Agriculture Commission established.

“Challenges remain for the farming sector and NFYFC will continue to represent its members’ views as we step forward into this new chapter for agriculture.”


11 November 2020

The current challenges of Brexit and Covid-19 have created a “tough climate for a generation to grow up in” but passion for the industry is making rural young people more resilient, concluded panellists at YFC AGRI’s online debate during National Young Farmers’ Week.

The debate, which included NFYFC President Nigel Owens MBE, Ivan Annibal, Managing Director of Rose Regeneration, Tom Pope, Chairman of Somerset FYFC and Beth Duchesne, Eastern Area Chairman, highlighted the findings of a recent NFYFC research project.

Chaired by YFC AGRI Chairman George Baxter, from Cambridgeshire FYFC, the panel discussed topics such as affordable rural housing, opportunities in agriculture and the impact of Brexit and Covid-19 on the future.

While it was agreed there are challenges ahead – none were considered unsurmountable. 

Beth, who is involved in her family’s arable farm in Suffolk, believes there is still confidence about a future in farming: “I am personally optimistic. Yes, there are challenges ahead but with every challenge there’s an opportunity. People know it’s going to be a struggle but it hasn’t put them off. It’s that determination that is going to get us through.”

And while Tom, who grew up on his family’s arable farm in Somerset, discussed the need for on-farm diversification to help farming businesses manage the difficult years, he also felt positive that agriculture had a bright future for those determined to be part of it.

“Passion is what sets agriculture apart from most other industries,” said Tom. “That’s where the resilience comes from in farming. The passion to do well and keep going. It’s a positive future.  

With 81% of people who were surveyed in the Covid-19 and a Post Brexit Rural Future survey believing it will be harder for people to live in a rural setting, Ivan highlighted why it was important for people to live and work in a rural setting.

“People who work in farming are rooted to and passionate about the land and the landscape that they’re based in. Covid-19 has made it worse to an extent as we’ve seen a real upsurge in people wanting to move out of the cities and move to rural communities and that starts to drive the housing prices up even further,” said Ivan.

Rural communities 

Discussions around rural communities and the role YFC plays within them was also a hot topic of debate. Panellists agreed that Covid-19 had caused everyone to re-evaluate what was important to them.

“There has been a huge wake up call for a lot of people in realising where their food is coming from and the great work of the farming community,” said Nigel, who was keen to encourage YFCs to promote themselves more widely.

“It’s in our nature to not brag about what we do well. Community spirit has been the backbone of the countryside and YFC, hopefully now we will see a shift back to that in raising awareness of how important YFCs are to the future of the farming community and also the future of the countryside. There’s a lot of stuff we [YFC] can do better and need to do better in promoting ourselves.”

Rural isolation 

Not surprisingly, the pandemic created a huge backdrop to the discussions, and panellists highlighted the impact on the industry, YFCs and mental health.

Tom said the effect of Covid-19 on young farmers’ mental health had been significant and that his county federation in Somerset had sourced funding from the Somerset Community Foundation to train up to 12 mental health first aiders to assist YFC members.

“Some people were under the impression that farmers might be less affected as they’re so isolated anyway and they’re used to it,” explained Tom. “But while they might be isolated in their day-to-day [jobs] – for young farmers having the medium of YFC to socialise and meet up with other like-minded people means you are getting that social interaction. But literally working and then going home… it has been a tough time for a lot of people.”

The telephone conversations conducted by Rose Regeneration for the survey also showed that YFC members were developing connections across England and Wales through NFYFC, due to the technology that was being used to remain connected during the pandemic.

“We do need opportunities for people to socialise and connect and network. That opportunity and infrastructure that exists around the National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs is very important in sustaining people in this future long-term challenge. It’s talking to other people that gives you the confidence and the support networks to tackle some of this adversity and that’s a really important element of the unique offer the NFYFC has,” said Ivan.

The online debate was held during National Young Farmers’ Week and is available to watch here. 


04 November 2020

YFC AGRI is hosting an online debate, supported by Defra, on Saturday 7 November and is inviting YFC members to join in to discuss what they want from their farming future with industry experts from the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust's Allerton Project and the NFU.

The Saturday morning session hopes to connect members during their first weekend of lockdown in England and towards the end of the firebreak in Wales. The online session – What the next generation wants for its farming future - Produce, Profit, Protect – starts at 10am and will be a discussion via Zoom.

The programme for the online event is as follows:

Phil Jarvis, Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust’s (GWCT) Head of Farming, Training & Partnerships, chairs a panel of industry experts for a morning’s discussion, questions and suggestions from the next generation.   

John Royle, NFU Chief Livestock Adviser – discusses the following topics: reputation of the farming industry, consumer attitudes, leading onto productivity and the SFFS; data use and opportunities presented by the new Livestock Information Service and the recent announcement on the Trade and Agriculture Commission.

Dr Ceris Jones, NFU Climate Change Adviser – discusses the challenges around climate and weather patterns, NFU Net Zero 2040 aspirations, turning the concepts into reality, the journey to carbon capture, ‘Doing Our Bit for Net Zero’ case studies and the NFYFC Climate Change Video Challenge.

Alastair Leake, Head of GWCT’s Allerton Project – discusses ELMS, biodiversity, the Environment Bill being back in Parliament and an update on game licencing.

Following these presentations, young farmers are invited to discuss and continue the feedback dialogue for policy makers.

To join the session on Saturday morning, just click on the Zoom meeting link here at 10am when it starts. 

 


02 November 2020

NFYFC has four scholarship places available for YFC members who can represent the Federation at next year’s virtual Oxford Farming Conference (OFC) on Thursday, 7 January 2021.

Due to the exceptional circumstances of COVID-19, the Oxford Farming Conference 2021 will be a one-day digital conference. The Worshipful Company of Farmers (WCF) has extended its offer to support four YFC members to apply for selection.

The OFC scholar programme aims to offer young people the opportunity to connect with each other ahead of the digital conference in January, experience the agricultural conference and to share views and ideas.

There will be a half-day scholars’ online event on 10 December in conjunction with McDonald’s. The agenda for the half-day is still being developed but may include a McDonald’s supply chain virtual tour, an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion workshop, and networking activities.

  • Scholars will be encouraged to communicate with each other in between the events leading up to the January conference.
  • Attend the OFC 2021 Digital Conference on Thursday, 7 January 2021.

Potential scholars should:

  • Be keen to learn and participate, represent YFCs and share your experience with the membership
  • Have practical or educational experience in livestock or arable farming, or a particular interest for attending which can be communicated and considered
  • Be available to attend a half-day scholars’ online event on 10 December
  • Be available to attend the online Oxford Farming Conference (OFC) onThursday,7 January 2021
  • Scholars should be aged between 22 and 30 and not attended the conference before.

AGRI Manager Sarah Palmer said: "We know that some young farmers do not feel confident about putting themselves forward for these opportunities but if you know of a worthy applicant, please encourage them to apply for this opportunity. Also, if you're interested in applying but are not sure about what's involved, please contact me for further guidance."  

To be considered for a scholarship, please submit your reasons why you should be considered for this great opportunity, include contact details, your YFC membership number and your CV to Sarah Palmer. 


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