This week marks the start of National Young Farmers Week which aims to raise awareness of NFYFC to a wider audience and position it as the leading rural youth service and demonstrate the relevance and importance of YFCs to rural communities
And what better way to kick of a week of celebration of all that is good about the country’s largest youth organisation than with a very personal account of what YFC means to the current chair of council – the fantastic, fun, farming legend that is Lynsey Martin.
What does YFC mean to me?
Family. That’s what YFC means to me.
We look out for each other, someone always has your back and ok, yes, there are sometimes disagreements. But there’s something special about being a member of a YFC that connects you to 619 other YFCs across the country – sometimes in remote places you’ve probably never even heard of!
I joined my local YFC, Ashford and District in Kent, more than 11 years ago and I never imagined I would become the national chairman of this historic organisation.
It’s steeped in history. You only have to step inside the YFC Centre at Stoneleigh to find the names of those who have worn the chain of office years before me engraved deeply into wooden boards of YFC glory!
And I know from speaking to many former chairmen or any of our life vice presidents, that it’s difficult to ever get YFC out of your system. It’s because so many of us make friends – and skills – for life through YFC.
As well as the most obvious social connections that YFC provides, the organisation is unique in the way its members can take on the responsibility of managing their clubs. From the age of 10, you can start helping in your club and progress to planning your club programme or eventually being its chairman. From there, it could be onwards towards County roles, and for those who have really got the YFC bug, a step towards taking part in the NFYFC Council or Board.
But it’s not all about meetings and minute books – a lot of members admit where they have grown in confidence is by taking part in the national competitions programme. From Pantomimes to Public Speaking, the programme is designed to develop skills, cement friendships and reward and recognise success.
And while we might all mostly live in rural locations, YFC encourages members to travel further afield and see the world through its YFC Travel programme. You could be working in New Zealand, enjoying homestays in the USA, Canada and Europe or volunteering in rural communities in more deprived countries.
Training is also a major part of the offer for young farmers, with courses run at club level by YFC members who have achieved an internationally recognised Train the Trainer certification. The Farm Safety training course, developed with Yellow Wellies, is among those courses – and is in fact one of the most popular run at a club level. And there are lots of opportunities to network with and learn from the industry too.
While our YFCs are what members connect with at their weekly meetings and annual rallies, NFYFC is a constant, working behind the scenes to keep the YFC machine moving.
It gives a voice for rural young people on a national stage by engaging with leading industry players, politicians and relevant organisations. It gathers funding and support for YFC activities, campaigns and projects and it is there to guide YFCs on their journey. Nurturing and developing and growing. That’s why the YFC family means so much to me.