Sussex Young Farmers Federation has organised a crisis meeting in a last-ditch bid to prevent closure, potentially ending the 80-plus-year history of the movement in the county.
Its leaders are urging past and present members, farmers, rural businesses and other supporters to attend the open meeting at Plumpton College on 14 October.
“Our financial position has been deteriorating for several years and we have now reached the point where we are no longer financially viable,” said treasurer Doug Jackson.
A combination of falling grants and subsidies, rising costs and reduced revenue as a result of dwindling membership numbers had taken its toll, he added.
“We are hoping we can generate enough interest to get a hall full of people who will say: We must stop this from happening.
“I will be devastated if YFC finishes. It’s the greatest organisation operating in the UK. The opportunities it gives people are incredible.”
Having been involved with the YFC movement for more than 20 years, Mr Jackson described it as a “community within a community”, pointing out it produced socially and professionally well-rounded individuals and offered unique opportunities for training, self-development and travel.
“I doubt if there are many Farmers Weekly readers who have not benefitted in some way.”
Competing demands for would-be members’ time had increased, contributing to the fall in membership in Sussex from its high point of more than 500 members to its current level of about 200, he said.
“Hopefully we will develop a plan to increase membership and resurrect this flagging organisation. Unfortunately, if a suitable plan cannot be found we will have no option but to close the federation.”
Across England and Wales, there are just over 24,000 members in 48 county federations.
James Eckley of the National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs said: “The NFYFC is working with the Sussex County Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs to support them to explore ways to strengthen the organisation in Sussex, revitalise their programmes and grow their membership.
“YFCs are such an important social network for young people living in rural areas, as well as providing opportunities to develop skills. We want to ensure that this service continues to be available for current and future generations.”
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