National Federation of Young Farmers' Clubs

Fun, Learning, and Achievement

30 April 2021

Nigel Owens MBE has been re-elected as NFYFC’s President for 2021-22 at NFYFC’s 89th Annual General Meeting (AGM) online on 29 April 2021.

The former international rugby referee said he was ‘honoured’ to be elected again and hoped that the easing of Covid-19 restrictions would mean he could get out to meet more members in the coming year.

Nigel was first elected as President last August at the postponed AGM. It was the first time an NFYFC President had been elected online and most of Nigel’s duties throughout the year have been performed digitally.

He took part in an online debate during National Young Farmers’ Week to discuss NFYFC’s research into a rural future post-Brexit and amid the Covid-19 pandemic. He has also helped promote YFC to a wider audience through his social media and press work.

At this year’s AGM, where he was unanimously voted into his position as President again, he acknowledged the difficult year members had faced and “hoped we can look forward to more optimism in the year ahead.”

During his acceptance speech at the AGM, Nigel said:

“Thank you to all the members for your support last year and this next year. It really is a pleasure. Apologies first of all due to the circumstances of Covid I haven’t been able to meet a lot of you in person and attend as many of the events that take place all over the country throughout the year. Certainly, I hope with things starting to ease I will be able to do that from the summer onwards.

“I know many of you will be disappointed that over the year a lot of the events and the usual get togethers have not happened, but I am sure we can look forward with a bit more optimism for the coming year.”

Nigel tweeted on his account following the meeting: “Thank you for the honour of being re-elected as your President @NFYFC. Looking forward to hopefully meeting more of you in person this year and supporting your wonderful events.”

During the meeting, seven deputy presidents were also elected:

  • Eastern Area – Howard Gilbert
  • East Midlands Area – Brian Lovegrove
  • Northern Area – Diane Coles
  • South East Area – Alethea Snelling
  • South West Area – Nigel Howe
  • Wales – Owen Elliott
  • West Midlands Area – David Fellows

Diane Coles was also elected as a Life Vice President in recognition of the contributions she has made over the past 50 years to County Durham FYFC and to the club, Area and NFYFC.

30 April 2021

NFYFC members have voted to increase the membership age from 26 to 28 at the 89th Annual General Meeting (AGM), held online on 29 April 2021.

The decision means that from 1 September 2021, YFC members can join or remain a full member of NFYFC until they are 28 years old – meaning they can still compete and enjoy all the benefits of full membership.

YFCs will need to update their club constitutions at their next AGMs to reflect the decision made at the national meeting.  Individual clubs can choose to retain their current membership ages if they do not wish to recruit members above 26.  The NFYFC will be providing template documents and a guide on how to change the constitution at the club AGM.

The motion to increase the membership age, was proposed by Abbie Williams of Gwent FYFC and seconded by Bryony Wilson from Montgomery FYFC. YFCs all received two votes to use before or during the AGM and 81.9% voted in favour of the motion, with 15.6% against and 2.5% abstaining.

Abbie argued successfully that club committees would benefit from the increase in support from older members, as well as it being an opportunity to boost membership numbers.

Abbie said during her presentation at the AGM: “More older members can help guide, support and lead a club. They have the knowledge, experience and maturity to help with the challenges that lie ahead.”

Pandemic problems 

The fall in members due to the pandemic was also discussed and Abbie highlighted that after foot and mouth in 2001, it took five years for membership numbers to fully recover so it was prudent to take action now. It was also highlighted that YFCs in Ulster and Scotland had an older membership age compared with NFYFC and it worked in those countries.

During the meeting, concerns were raised about the increase in the upper age limit and the impact this would have on the youngest members making decisions for the club.

NFYFC Chair of Council Rachel Goldie said the decision was a clear one from YFC members with the increase gaining a high percentage of the votes.

“It is YFC members who brought this motion to the AGM and it is YFC members who have voted to increase NFYFC’s upper membership age to 28. Charitable governance has increased over the last few years and it is hoped that the older members can support younger members more with these increased responsibilities, while still enjoying the privileges of a full NFYFC membership.

“It may also offer more incentive for young people returning home after university to re-join their YFC again and to be part of their clubs for longer. NFYFC’s constitution will now change to support this decision and the NFYFC Council will monitor and review its impact.”

The Competitions Steering Group had already made the decision to increase the competing age to 28 during the next membership year to allow those in their final year, who had missed out on competitions due to the pandemic, a chance to compete.

Information, templates and guidance about changing your Club’s constitution will be prepared and circulated to county federations in the coming weeks.  For more information about changing your Club’s constitution, contact James Eckley

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.

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