National Federation of Young Farmers' Clubs

Fun, Learning, and Achievement

27 November 2020

James Eckley, Chief Officer of The National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs (NFYFC), has been awarded a Fellowship of the Royal Agricultural Societies by the Council for Awards of Royal Agricultural Societies (CARAS).

The Fellowship is the senior Award of the Council and is given in recognition of outstanding contribution by an individual to the understanding, efficiency and well-being of agriculture.

Mr Eckley is from a farming family in Herefordshire and has worked in the land-based and agriculture industry throughout his career. He has been the Chief Officer of NFYFC for seven years, and previously held senior roles in the organisation. He was also General Manager of HOPS Labour Solutions from 1996 to 2004 that operated the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS).

As Chief Officer of NFYFC, Mr Eckley oversees the Federation, ensuring members’ voices are heard and that its programme of work meets its charitable objectives. The Federation has retained its strong links with agriculture over the past 89 years, helping to develop the next generation of farmers.

CARAS acts on behalf of the UK’s four national Royal Agricultural Societies – The Royal Agricultural Society of England, The Royal Highland & Agricultural Society of Scotland, The Royal Ulster Agricultural Society, and The Royal Welsh Agricultural Society to recognise, through its Awards scheme, distinguished achievement in agriculture and related land-based industries

The Awards embrace not only practical farming and the development of new husbandry practices, but also research, technology, economics, education, farming care, communication and administration.

Mr Eckley said: “It is a huge honour to have been awarded the Fellowship of the Royal Agricultural Societies in recognition of nearly 25 years working with and for young people in the sector.”

“I am supported by an excellent team of elected officers, the Board and staff at NFYFC who help deliver a programme of work that supports more than 20,000 rural young people across England and Wales. NFYFC’s competitions, training delivery and industry connections all help to encourage and excite young people about the industry.”

“It is a pleasure to be part of this dynamic sector and I will continue to do all I can to help develop more young people to be involved in its future.” 

27 November 2020

More than 140 YFC members took part in NFYFC’s national Stockjudging finals, sponsored by Kerbl UK, this November, which for the first time ever were held online due to the pandemic.

The stockjudging is the first national final of the YFC year and all the points gained from participating counties will go towards the NFU Trophy.

YFC members from Devon were hailed the overall team winners, securing the John Spear trophy for scoring the most points across all of the categories.

Devon B team member Michelle Batting said Devon was delighted to be the overall winners. 

“It was an absolute honour to win the John Spear Trophy. It’s a trophy I never would have imagined I'd get my hands on and we were very pleased to bring it home to Devon.

“It was fantastic to have the opportunity to experience a little bit of normality and compete in a national competition. The live and carcase stockjudging is personally one of my favourite competitions so I was pleased not to miss out! I definitely didn’t miss spending time in the cold fridge – and I really enjoyed having the time to make my reasons the best that they could be,” said Michelle.

While the popular competition would normally be held at the English Winter Fair at Staffordshire Showground, YFC members adapted quickly to viewing animals and carcases online instead. Entrants were shown the pigs and beef cattle on Zoom and then asked to record their order and reasons in a short video.

Michelle said that Devon’s victory was helped by the fact their county had already held some online competitions and virtual training during the lockdown.

“Devon held an online stockjudging competition earlier in the year so most of us had gained experience in competing online previously,” explained Michelle. “Our training also took place virtually with our trainers filming ‘how to’ videos and using Zoom so we had time with our fab trainers, Jill Persey and Kate Bulled.”

Due to the record number of entrants, NFYFC needed to invite more judges to help with the competition.

Chris Reading judged the entries to the senior beef carcase section of the NFYFC competition. “The competition team have done a great job in bringing this competition together – not easy given this is the first time so many participants have been brought together in a virtual way.

“There were some great presentations, given the circumstances – and some interesting backgrounds too! I learnt a new word in the context of carcase judging – bulbous – and quite a few people were using it and I think it’s a really good descriptive word. Thank you for the opportunity to do the judging and I hope 2021 is a better year,” said Chris in a video where he recorded his reasons. 

AHDB supported this year’s competition and offered prizes to some of the winners and Bradshaw Bros kindly recorded the videos of the carcases for the competition.

For a full list of the results see here. 

3 top tips for virtual stockjudging from the Devon team 

1. Use the time given to perfect your reasons as much as you can.

2. Include lots of comparative words.

3. Dress smart and present yourself in the best way you can.  

26 November 2020

A diversification idea on her family’s farm has created a successful business for Hannah Benson from North Holland YFC – and one that is keeping her busy this Christmas.

Q. Tell us about your business?

A. I run a small cut flower business in Lincolnshire supplying wholesalers, florists and the general public with freshly cut flowers from March to November. Then from November to Christmas, I supply homemade Christmas wreaths and DIY wreath kits using our own grown foliage.

Q. Where did the idea for the business come from?

A. I was on a productive horticultural apprenticeship at the time working on our family vegetable farm. My dad encouraged me to have something for myself, so I decided to grow cut flowers from the farm as a diversification whilst learning what I needed to know from college.

Q. What’s your role in the business?

A. I am self employed so I make all the decisions on my business and make sure I know the direction I am going in but along with that comes hard manual work which I do all myself.  I don’t employ my dad but he helps me out from time to time, just as I help him with the veg.

Q. Which are your most popular products?

A. My DIY wreath kits are very popular. In the summer my dried statice wreaths were also very popular, as well as my wrapped bouquets.

Q. How busy are you in the run up to Christmas?

A. Very busy. Wreath making usually starts at the end of November, taking me all the way up to Christmas. As you can imagine everybody wants a pre-made wreath in the first week of December so that’s usually when I’m at my busiest. Along with making wreaths I’m also helping dad with the veg in the run up to Christmas.

Q. Has Covid-19 impacted your business?

A. Yes – flowers were classed as non-essential, so my wholesalers closed back in March. I had nowhere to sell my flowers, so I took to Instagram and Facebook and started pushing my business page, sharing my flowers with local community groups until I built up a following and started selling to the general public. Local florists then started to see, so I was getting calls from them.

Q. Where can people buy your products?

A. People can buy from me through my Facebook page Hannah’s Flowers and my Instagram page @hannahsflowers20. I’m looking into a website for next year’s season. 

Are you a YFC member and would like to share your story about a successful business enterprise? Email 

25 November 2020

YFC members that have taken part in NFYFC's Give it Some YFC Welly Relay have so far raised nearly £10,000 to support County Federations.

With 14 counties so far receiving the welly and four of those currently hosting fundraisers, the campaign has got off to a positive start with £9,735 already donated.

The challenge involves members covering the total distance between each of the clubs in their county and there has been some creative methods used so far. From horse riding to driving tanks – YFC members have pulled on their boots and clocked up the miles.

In Somerset FYFC, where the welly has recently landed, members have to cover 1500 miles (an average of 66 miles per club) and the County is also offering prizes for participants, thanks to support from Mole Valley Farmers. The person who covers the greatest number of miles will receive a prize as well as the person who spends the most time exercising.

The County has set up its own leader board using Strava so members can record their activity.

“We are looking forward to our members getting out and about and enjoying the fresh air,” said County Chairman Ben Goulding in an online video recorded for members. “Whether you’re walking around the milk parlour or cycling through the local villages or chasing after some escaped sheep, we want to see what you’re up to. It’s really important to the county team that members of Somerset YFC get as much support as we can possibly give them.”

The County intends to use the money raised for training purposes that benefit their members. The welly was passed to Somerset from Devon after they covered a mammoth 4,211 miles.

Devon County Chairman Gareth Hutchings said: “Thank you to all the members who got out and about. We hoped to reach in excess of 2,500 but we have far surpassed that reaching over 4,000 miles from our members.”

Meshaw YFC was recognised for clocking up 900 of the County’s total miles and Meshaw’s Henry Dunn was rewarded by the County with free YFC membership for the year for covering the most miles.

In Nottinghamshire, members raised £1,495 for the County Federation by covering 188 miles on horses, bikes, tanks (!) and with dogs. Their President Adrian Baugh even took part in the relay in his milking parlour, covering 5.1 miles by walking up and down it.

In Lincolnshire, members raised more than £1,500 and smashed their mileage target of 199 miles by actually covering nearly a 1,000. There was a lot of local promotion for the welly relay when it landed in Lincolnshire at the end of National Young Farmers’ Week and the club used posters and local radio to help them raise funds.

If your County is still to get involved in the Give it Some YFC Welly Relay and would like to receive the welly, contact for more information. All materials and support information are available on the NFYFC website here.

To donate to the campaign, visit here.


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