National Federation of Young Farmers' Clubs

Fun, Learning, and Achievement

30 April 2021

Top names from the farming industry are among the line-up of judges who will help to recognise the rural young people who have gone above and beyond in The National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs’ (NFYFC) 2021 YFC Achiever Awards.

The awards, which were first launched last year, are a way of recognising and rewarding members of Young Farmers’ Clubs (YFCs) for the work they do in the community, for enterprising initiatives and for helping to develop other rural young people.

Many of the 593 YFCs across England and Wales devised new ways to stay connected during the pandemic with shows and rallies, quizzes and fundraisers all taking place online. Weekly Zoom meetings replaced the community hall gatherings and many YFC members also volunteered to support their local communities with grocery deliveries, prescription collections or by working in food banks. 

There will be a special Covid-19 award to recognise the support YFC members have shown their local communities during the pandemic. The Community Spirit award is this year sponsored by Tama and NFYFC wants to promote the generous actions of clubs across England and Wales.

There is also a new category being added to the awards line up in 2021 – the Farm Safety Award, which is sponsored by SGN. Young farmer and social media influencer Hannah Jackson – aka The Red Shepherdess – will help to judge the award with Stephanie Berkeley from The Farm Safety Foundation (Yellow Wellies).

Hannah said: “I’m really excited about being involved in judging this new award and seeing what safety initiatives YFC members have introduced or how they have promoted safe practices to others. As an industry we know we need to improve and this award will help to demonstrate how the next generation will lead the way.”

The finalists for the Farm Safety Award will be announced during Farm Safety Week in July this Year.

Enterprising young people will also be recognised in the Entrepreneur of the Year category, supported by NatWest. The judges will be looking for rural and farming initiatives that have been launched during the pandemic.

There is also an award, where the winner is chosen by the YFC membership in an online poll. The Heart of YFC award, sponsored by Eternit, is presented to the person that YFC members believes represents the true spirit of YFC. NFYFC’s President Nigel Owens is among the judging panel who will choose three of the nominees for the wider membership to vote on.

Nigel Owens MBE said: “The YFC Achiever Awards shine a light on the amazing work of YFC members and our supporters. It has been a tough time for everyone but it’s so encouraging to see that rural young people are still working hard to look after their communities and each other. It’s now time for us to celebrate those achievements.”

Other judges include Farming Today and Countryfile presenter Charlotte Smith, TV presenter and beef and sheep farmer Gareth Wyn Jones, young farmer Zoe Colville (aka the Chief Shepherdess) and Alexia Robinson, founder of Love British Food.

The award categories are:

  • The Heart of YFC Award, sponsored by Eternit
  • Entrepreneur of the Year, supported by NatWest 
  • Farm Safety Award, sponsored by SGN 
  • Community Spirit award, sponsored by Tama 
  • Community Supporter of the Year
  • Aspiring Rural Leader of the year
  • YFC Supporter of the Year
  • New member of the Year

Nominations can be made online here and entries must be submitted before the deadline of 18 June 2021. 



29 April 2021

YFC members involved in farming are supporting a Farmer Time initiative to help inspire and educate schoolchildren and young people about the industry. 

Farmer Time was the brainchild of Tom Martin and is now organised by LEAF. It links classrooms across the UK with a farmer, over apps such as FaceTime or Zoom, so young people can ‘virtually’ visit a farm, see how food is produced and understand the links between farming and the environment.

Ernie Richards, from Herefordshire FYFC, shares his experience of being involved in Farmer Time.

Why did you want to get involved in Farmer Time?

Giving children the opportunity to see rural life and ask questions is a highly valuable learning experience.

I strongly believe sharing the realities of farming and allowing everyone to see what’s involved helps children to understand where their food comes from. Our British countryside is a wonderful place, and I feel everyone should experience it, but it’s also crucial that they understand how farmers manage the landscape too.

I’ve always been passionate about giving everyone the chance to experience farming, and I wanted to find a way I could do this from the farm. Farmer Time ticked all the boxes!

How did you get involved in Farmer Time?

I first heard of Farmer Time, a few years ago, while helping out during a LEAF Open Farm Sunday. I initially thought that I wouldn’t be interesting enough as I only farm sheep. But I couldn’t have been more wrong!

When I later saw Farmer Time advertised on social media, I thought I would give it ago, and I am incredibly pleased I did. 

It was quick and easy to get involved, I simply followed the instructions on the website, and signed up. The process then involves the team at LEAF, who co-ordinate the scheme, matching you up with a school. Once a match has been made, the teacher and the farmer organise a video call.

I am paired up with a Year 4 class from a primary school in Exmouth. I catch up with the teacher regularly to discuss the most suitable times and dates to have a video call.

What have you done so far with the school?

Since signing up to Farmer Time in October 2020, we’ve had numerous video calls, which have all been engaging and very rewarding. The calls mainly involve an organised Q&A session, and me informing the class what I am doing on that day.

With farming being very seasonal, my aim is to follow the shepherd’s calendar, highlighting all the important events I encounter as a sheep farmer. I have already showed the class the elements farmers face in the winter, my loyal sheepdogs in action and the highlights of lambing time. Over the next few months, I hope to show shearing to the class, the product of wool, and give them an understanding of the processes involved to produce British lamb.

After most calls, I discuss future topics with the teacher and we often come up with new ideas to keep the class inspired. The feedback from the teacher and the children has so far been great.

What does the teacher have to say?

Mr Robin James – YR 4 Teacher, Exeter Road Primary School, Exmouth said:   

‘’My class has really enjoyed meeting Ernie, our farmer, using Zoom.  They're learning, in regular instalments, what the life of a farmer is like.  Our Farmer Time chats have opened up a window on another place, another world, another life.  While we sit in our classroom, we see Ernie in a different place each week, explaining what he and his [sheep]dogs are up to on the farm. 

“The children really love the [sheep]dogs and can’t wait to see some sheep shearing.  When the new lambs come, I imagine they’ll be beside themselves!  We’ve developed our own way of running our sessions, preparing questions to ask beforehand. Individuals come up to the camera, say hello then ask their questions - and there’s been quite a range of those. 

Between Ernie and myself, we’re planning to surprise the children too - so our chats will also leave space for improvised interaction, depending on what Ernie has in store.  Over the year, the class will get a picture of the range of jobs a farmer has to do and some of them, I hope, might even consider farming as a career choice themselves when they’re a little bit older.’’

Has it taken up a lot of time – how have you managed it around work?

As farmers, we often feel time is against us, but farmer Time really doesn’t take that much time!

From a farmer perspective, the best advice I would give is to have a casual chat with your matched school teacher, and discuss how you want the sessions to run to best suit everyone.

Depending on the farming calendar, Farmer Time is very flexible, and fits in well with your daily work routine. Regular communication with the school is important, so once you have organised how you want to run the sessions, it generally involves doing a video call between 20-30 minutes, every two to three weeks, and can vary from a Q&A session, to a causal chat with your matched class, informing them what you’re doing that day.

My top tips would be:

  • Ensure you have good phone signal/WIFI
  • Plenty of device battery
  • Use age-appropriate language
  • Regular sessions to build a relationship between farm and classroom.

How have you found the experience and would you recommend it to others?

The experience is thoroughly enjoyable, and I feel very proud to be part of it. It’s a great feeling when you’ve just finished a session, as the children are so engaged and love taking part.

There is currently a long list of schools wanting to be linked with farmers, and I would strongly encourage everyone to have a go and share their farming experiences with a classroom.

We need to inspire young people, engaging them in education to help understand the field to fork process, the positive links between farming and the environment, and the countless career opportunities within British agriculture.

Farmer time is incredibly rewarding, and I have found during the pandemic it has been beneficial for my own mental health, giving me many smiles, and laughs, during a strange time. It is always a surprise, and you never know what question you will get asked next!

To get involved in Farmer Time, visit here.




 


29 April 2021

YFC members are being encouraged to share positive images of living or working in a rural location to celebrate Mental Health Awareness Week (10-16 May) to support this year’s campaign theme of ‘nature.’

The Mental Health Foundation will be sharing the benefits of nature on mental health during the week, and as most YFC members live or work in the countryside, it’s the perfect opportunity to celebrate our natural environment.

Posting your photos to social media and tagging @NFYFC in your posts means we can share your nature images wider and encourage a sense of wellbeing. Sharing positive images of food, farming and the countryside will not only help YFC members to appreciate where they work and live but also remind others of the positive impact nature can have on our mental health.

The Mental Health Foundation has chosen to focus on nature this year as it’s so central to our psychological and emotional health. The charity states that information it releases throughout the week will show “nature’s ability to not only bring consolation in times of stress but also increase our creativity, empathy and sense of wonder.”

NFYFC will also be promoting the new Rural+ training modules during Mental Health Awareness Week, which have been developed with The Farming Community Network and The DPJ Foundation. YFC Trainers have been receiving training to deliver the courses and clubs can book onto the sessions from 10 May 2021.

Throughout Mental Health Awareness Week, NFYFC will be encouraging clubs to register for the Rural+ course to be delivered in their clubs. Clubs wishing to book a Rural+ training course should contact their County teams.

For more information about Mental Health Awareness Week visit here.

To enter NFYFC’s photo challenge, just share a photo from where you live or work on social media during 10-16 May and tag @NFYFC and use the hashtag #ConnectwithNature. We’ll choose the top three photos from the week.


29 April 2021

While Serena Gough, 24, from Eccleshall YFC may not have followed her family’s footsteps into a career in farming, she was still eager to be part of YFC. As a civil engineer Serena reveals why she’s passionate about STEM careers and how YFC has helped her professional and personal life

Q. Why did you want to get involved in YFC?

A. There is a long history of farming in my family, through both my mother's and father's side. My mother was also a member of Eccleshall YFC and my father was Chair of Newport YFC, just across the border into Shropshire. I joined YFC because I was interested in meeting more people from the rural community and getting involved with social events.

Q. Can you tell us about your role as a civil engineer?

A. Civil engineering involves everything that has been built around you! It includes transportation, such as roads and railways, buildings, such as offices, hospitals and schools, water and power supply, to name a few.  It’s infrastructure we often take for granted but would find very difficult to live without.

I specialise in designing roads. This includes the preparation of preliminary and detailed design for road schemes, from singular junctions to whole road corridors. My job title is Highways and Traffic Engineer at AECOM, a global engineering consultancy.  I am normally based in Birmingham city centre, but have been working from home in Staffordshire since the start of the pandemic. 

Q. What qualifications have you had to take so far to pursue this career?

A. At high school, I studied A Levels in Mathematics, Further Mathematics, Physics and Geography.  I then went on to study an MEng in Civil Engineering at the University of Nottingham where I gained a First Class (Hons) degree.  I am currently working towards a professional qualification through the Institution of Civil Engineers. 

Q. What is your role as a STEM Ambassador?

A. As a STEM Ambassador, I work with young people to introduce them to the STEM subjects, particularly, civil engineering. I am keen to encourage more young people, especially females, to have exposure to engineering, so that they can make informed choices about their future. Many people do not know about the areas of engineering that exist in the world!

Q. Would you recommend a STEM career to others?

A. STEM careers are vital to the functioning of society and affect our daily lives more than we could ever imagine, yet so many people never consider this.  I would definitely recommend a career in STEM as there are many opportunities to make a positive change in the world. 

Q. Has being a YFC member helped your career?

A. Being a member of YFC has allowed me to increase my communication skills and leadership skills as Secretary of my club this year. 

Taking part in the Staffordshire and West Midlands Area YFC Public Speaking competition allowed me to increase confidence and communication skills in an online environment. 

I am also currently Senior Vice Chair of the Institution of Civil Engineers West Midlands Graduates and Students Committee and Deputy Chair of the national GSNet, and so holding these roles together has allowed me to develop my time management and organisational skills, which are all beneficial in my career.

Q. Did you manage to stay connected to your YFC during the pandemic?

A. During the pandemic, my club hosted virtual club nights and in person events, when safely permitted, such as rounders.  As Secretary, I started an Instagram account for the club to allow people to stay connected. We post regular updates about the club's activities, as well as advertising events across the county.

To be featured in a future profile, please email media@nfyfc.org.uk. 



22 April 2021

Young farmers looking for ways to help the industry reach net zero by 2040 can now seek inspiration from a new Climate Change Guide launched by The National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs (NFYFC).

The guide, which is supported by Defra and in association with the NFU and Championing the Farmed Environment (CFE), launches in the same week as the government announced its new target to cut emissions by 78% by 2035.

NFYFC’s digital interactive guide includes the results from NFYFC’s 2020 Climate Change Video Challenge, which asked young farmers to record a short video explaining their ideas for reducing carbon emissions on farm.

Organisers were delighted that Reaseheath College integrated the challenge into an agricultural course module, which produced some highly recommended projects from students.  It is hoped more YFC County Federations, clubs and land-based colleges will follow this initial lead.

More UK countries launched their own video challenges following on from the success of the competition in England – and in preparation for one the most important climate change conferences of 2021, the United Nations’ COP26 on 1-12 November.

As well as videos from the winners of the video challenge, the new guide contains FAQs, case studies and references for more information from the NFU and CFE to help young farmers better understand the climate challenge and how to tackle it.

The online guide also includes a foreword from David Kennedy, Defra’s Director General for Food, Farming and Biosecurity.

In the foreword, Mr Kennedy says: “There is a global challenge for us all and the guide will help to explain this, the actual task in hand and how we can all play our part. The ambition to achieve net zero emissions is clearly demonstrated by work highlighted by the NFU and the CFE and farmers who are already applying measures to combat climate change successfully.”

Tom Pope, Chair of NFYFC’s Agricultural and Rural Issues group (YFC AGRI), said: “This new guide will be an essential resource for any young farmer who wants to make an impact on climate change. It’s encouraging to see the success of our original challenge is continuing to inspire and we hope that this guide is shared widely to encourage young farmers to play their part in securing the future.” 


19 April 2021

With restrictions easing and clubs able to meet again, Chair of Louth YFC Callum Forsyth shares his experiences of leading a club over the last few months and meeting again after lockdown.

Q. What have been the challenges for your committee during lockdown?     

A. We have found it challenging keeping everyone engaged with the club and ensuring the members still feel they are getting value out of being part of YFC. We are desperate to keep the club alive and exciting for our members so that the club has a stable future. We currently have 23 members (which is around half what the club had last year).

Q. What did you do to help your members feel engaged during lockdown?     

A. We kept our virtual programme as full as possible, giving all our members the chance to socialise. We have had various talks, farm visits, lambing live, as well as the general quizzes, bingo etc – but all from our lockdown armchairs.

Q. What have you learned from the experience?                                       

A. As a club we have learnt that face-to-face socialising was a big part of the way we ran the club and having to adapt to a virtual programme hasn’t suited all of our members.

Hopefully with the changes to come – and the push to have Covid secure face-to-face  meetings – we can bring members back. None of us like change but it has been great to see the YFC spirit still carrying on when we have been able to have our weekly Zoom meetings or activities.

Q. What have been the challenges now you are starting to host Covid-secure meetings? 

A. Our struggle coming out of lockdown and working with the new restrictions for face-to-face meetings is ensuring everyone can get involved. We are a large club, with members aged mostly over 18 (only five members are currently under 18), so having to put the ‘rule of 6’ in place is difficult for us.

But we’re not letting this hold us back and we are thinking outside of the box to keep things moving forward. We are giving fence erecting training for groups of six and going to the golf range by allocating times for smaller groups.

Q. What tips would you give to other clubs that are considering hosting Covid-secure meetings?     

The main thing is to ensure our members are safe – simply following the guidelines allows us to do this. There is plenty we can still do even under the current restrictions and I’m hopeful it won’t be that long until we can get the club fully back together. Let’s just keep reminding people what a great community and support network Young Farmers can be. 

If you would like to share your story about running your YFC during lockdown and beyond please email NFYFC.  


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