Young farmers clubs have their place in social media age

Matthew Farrar was always destined to follow in his father Richard and grandfather John’s footsteps, and he now runs a 150-cow dairy herd, 200 beef cattle and a flock of 50 ewes with his father at Lower Banks Farm in Huby between Otley and Harrogate.

Farnley Estate Young Farmers Club took the title at this year's county rally.

But he has clearly been destined too, to help carry on the work of Farnley Estate Young Farmers Club where he started as a member, became chairman and is now a club leader.

“It’s only my second year and I’m thoroughly enjoying it. We have suddenly attracted quite a number of younger members and had 18 junior age group members at this year’s county rally. It made such a big difference as we won the title for the first time in a while.”

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The Young Farmers Club movement covers the age range of 10-26 years which can prove challenging in compiling a programme that suits everyone. Farnley Estate YFC now has a reasonable mix of all ages and Matthew explains what’s been done to keep everyone involved.

“We’ve had to change the kind of meetings we hold and now run a lot of activity based nights and less talks. In the past year some of the favourites were jive dancing and wreath making. We’ve also visited the Brymor ice cream farm and the members have taken part in a fashion show that despite being a little self-conscious about at first they thoroughly enjoyed.”

Rachel Coates of Low Spring Farm, Baildon has been involved at county level and as a field officer in the past. She was a member of Skipton YFC and her daughter Felicity was a member of Esholt YFC before it folded.

“Felicity came to Farnley Estate and became the club secretary. I’m now a club leader along with Matthew. Things have changed since we were members. At that time a young farmers club meeting was your social occasion of the week. Social media has made a huge difference but at the end of the day I think young people still want to get together rather than purely through a laptop or iPad.”

While some other youth and young people’s movements have suffered, Rachel believes the unique nature of at least two young farmers club activities are highly significant.

“Stockjudging competitions and public speaking make the young farmers movement stand out from the rest. You don’t get those anywhere else. They are both life skills. If you’re going to be a farmer or work on a farm, or even show livestock then what you learn by stockjudging is invaluable. Public speaking also brings about greater self confidence wherever you are and for whatever career you choose.”

Anne Harrison of Knox Hill Farm, near Harrogate is the current club president. Anne started as a member of Farnley Estate YFC in 1968 and was a club leader with the late Christine Houseman and latterly Julie Houseman. She won at the national beef stockjudging finals with Russell Toothill of Doncaster YFC in 1978.

“We’ve never had a massive club and we were down to just a handful of junior members. I remember Julie and I talking about encouraging others to come and that’s what’s happened now. While we’ve quite a few from non-farming backgrounds it’s still about 80 per cent farming family members. Matthew’s children all now come and his eldest daughter Emily is our current secretary.

“It doesn’t automatically follow that just because your parents have been past members that you’ll come and it’s taken us a while to get the youngsters we have. We’ve worked at it, but they’re getting really involved and loving it just as we did.”

Josh Ryder, the current club chairman, is a farmer’s son from Central House Farm, Haverah Park near Harrogate.

“For my own part I wouldn’t have been able to do what I now do without the experience I’ve had, as well as all the good social times. Learning about stockjudging and how to do public speaking really does give you great confidence.”

Farnley Estate YFC’s next big event is an Auction of Promises to be held at Almscliffe Village Hall on December 3.