Steve and Scott Waterfield had seen their beloved Knaresborough YFC struggling for members prior to the pandemic and both feared that it would be lost forever unless something was done when restrictions were lifted.
They felt that if the club was to thrive it needed to be relevant to today’s youth. They believed the time had come to shape what they felt would be an attractive proposition for new members and their work has been vindicated as they now have their largest membership in years.
Steve said that during last winter he and Scott had begun talking about how the club could be resurrected.
“When those dark, cold nights came I really thought it was all over for the club. We both knew we had to do something. Prior to Covid we only had a handful of members and they were mostly in the upper age end.
Scott is club secretary and said that it wasn’t just starting up meetings again that was important, but what they entailed.
“We all know that membership ebbs and flows in any club, but to me things also had to change. Our ethos is to enjoy ourselves. Teenagers today spend so much time on social media seeing where everybody is having fun and gravitate to that.
“We have come back with a brand new club and nearly all are brand new members, building the kind of club that we feel young people in the countryside really look forward to coming to. It is all about being fun, being friendly and inclusive.
“We are now arranging nights and events that are still about the countryside and farming but that everyone can enjoy."
Steve is one of the club leaders and said he and Scott had been determined to get everything underway as soon as restrictions were lifted.
“We managed to put on the first meeting for at least nine months at the start of this year when we organised a scrapheap challenge. The idea was to make something out of scrap. We didn’t have many there but those that came enjoyed it.
“As this year’s lockdown finished we were the first club in the Harrogate district to get back under way and we ran continuously in the summer.
“Our club has been made up of more non-farming than farming young people for many years and now our membership is predominantly non-farming families who want to be part of a young farmers club that enjoys itself.
“Not many of our kids could tell the difference between four similar looking sheep when it came to stockjudging so we decided on a different spin using farm-based vehicles. Ours was a farm vehicle judging night. We had a Gator, Discovery, tractor and pickup and the members rooted and crawled around them to make a decision of which would handle a certain task the best. Everyone had a good time talking about it."
Steve said what he and Scott had been conscious of was organising events and evenings that involved everyone in the club from 10-year-olds right through to the one or two remaining older members, including new club chairman Hayley Watson.
“What we realised was that everyone likes to be involved all the time. Nobody wants to come along and find there is nothing for them, otherwise they will stop coming. One of our latest nights we had them stacking bales with a loader and putting them on a trailer, all properly supervised.
“We still ran it competitively, but they now score more points for their awareness of health and safety while competing, which means they are more likely to take it in when handling the actual farming jobs. It’s a fun way of learning while competing and everyone can take part."
Steve said they were all amazed by the success of what they had thought was going to be a little event at the end of their summer season.
“We put together a vintage vehicle show in a field behind the pub in Arkendale for members to sit in them, have a barbecue, a nice end of season gathering. We had anticipated maybe half a dozen vehicles. It turned into quite an event with about 40 turning up including vintage tractors, cars, motorcyles, Series 1 Land Rovers and a 1948 horsebox that had been used in Heartbeat.
“Our next event is next weekend. It’s a 48-hour subsoiling marathon on land where I work, with everyone taking a stint on the tractor to raise funds for the club. We used to have ploughing marathons but the younger ones weren’t be able to take part and would turn up and go home again, a waste of their time. Now everyone is involved every time.
“If anyone in our area of Harrogate and Knaresborough would like to come along to a club night or to the subsoiling marathon they can contact me on 07931 510710."