“Get involved and stand up for farming,” says NFU president Peter Kendall, who wants to see more younger farmers taking up public-facing and official roles.

The union is running development groups across several sectors to help younger members gain the skills and confidence to do this at the same time as improving their business skills.

Fourteen signed up for the cereals development programme in September 2012, a joint initiative with grain co-op Openfield.

Members of the group visited companies in their supply chain and studied how other organisations such as the NFU, HGCA, PGRO and government work, as well as considering how to cope with volatility in their businesses.

NFU cereal development group activity

  • Visits to Syngenta, Openfield and baker Warburtons to learn how they operate and about future developments
  • PGRO and HGCA – how the organisations work, what they do
  • European Food and Farming Partnerships (EFFP) – personal, group and industry development
  • Red Tractor and farm assurance
  • NFU – how the organisation works, its lobbying and industry liaison roles
  • Government – visit to Houses of Parliament.

Learning how to handle the media and the benefits of using social media in farm business were also key parts of the programme.

The potential for social media to promote a business or deliver a farming message left a big impression on the group members. Thirteen of the group’s 14 members are now on Twitter compared with just two before the group formed.

“Quite simply, we don’t have the choice whether we do social media or not – it’s a question of how well we do it,” said Charles Anyan who farms in Lincolnshire.

A similar initiative, sponsored by ABN, is being run for the poultry sector while a group for sugar with British Sugar as sponsor has completed two programmes and begun a third.

The NFU’s next generation policy forum will also be looking for new members early next year to feed ideas from younger farmers into the mainstream NFU.

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