I'm really excited to be a part of the 2011 NFU conference which is being held at the Hilton Metropole in Birmingham this week. The NFU have kindly invited 76 young farmers to attend the conference and have invited me to speak at one of the breakfast sessions on Wednesday morning entitled 'The Next Generation' with the Minister for Agriculture, Jim Paice MP.
As the conference theme concentrates on the contribution of farming to the economy, I beleive it is pertinent to acknowledge the necessity for young farmers and new entrants to have support entering the industry. I'm sure you will agree that this is long overdue.
And so, I am keeping my fingers crossed that I am invited to ask my question to Caroline Spelman during tomorrow's morning political session. The question that I am hopnig to ask is very similar to the question I asked to Hilary Benn Last year however I feel that it is still left unanswered and young people are still being left in the dark.
We are fed up of all the meetings that are being held to discuss OUR FUTURE, which we feel are prodomenantly talking shops. We have responded to industry and government recommendations to upskill, train and be forward thinking, now the time has come to see some action!
I have been lucky enough to be selected as the DHL supply chain scholar on the 2011 Oxford Farming conference. Having attended in 2010 I know what to expect from the conference and am really looking forward to listening to the speakers and getting an overall perspective on how they perceive the future of our industry.
I'm really passionate about the future of our industry and ensuring that support measures are put in place to actively encourage young people to want to enter the farming sector and be able to survive. Therefore on behalf of the 23,000 young farmers members I represent as the chairman for agriculture I am hoping to ask Caroline Spelman MP a question. I'm hoping that I get more of an answer to my question than what I did from Hilary Benn MP at the 2010 NFU conference!!!
We know that the European commissioner supports the plight of young farmers, having held various meetings over the last year or so, however when the time for talking is over and actual support measures are decided (especially with post 2013 CAP reform) can the same be said for our own industry and government?
Now I'm all for a bit of tradition around the Christmas dinner table with locally sourced produce. My Dad grows olde worldy vegetable varities to preserve in the heritage seed library so I'm looking forward to tucking into his allotment grown brussel sprouts, parsnips, carrots and leeks on the big day. However when it comes to the meat you would guess that we would have the usual big turkey to feed the family at lunchtime - plus more for sandwich to last us a week... Well this year we are bucking the trend and going for something a little unusual...Water Buffalo
On Thursday afternoon I plan to collect our topside of Water Buffalo from Bouverie Lodge Farm, located just outside Melton Mowbray from the Wakelings family who rear Water Buffalo and Deer and sell at local farmers markets - you may have seen them selling buffalo burgers at various shows and events across the East Midlands. My Mum dislikes turkey and as she has the honour of preparing the Christmas lunch it is her prerogative to cook what she fancies... I'm told it is similar to cooking Beef so I'll have to let you know how it went and more importantly what it tasted like!
I was at Bakewell Livestock Market on Monday morning representing RABI in conjunction with the Farming life centre based near Buxton. If you have ever been to the market before you will know it is within walking distance of town and so there is always a passing trade of tourists and local people. Being half term week there were bus loads of people offloading in the car parks outside and an ideal opportunity to showcase the wonderful world of British agriculture.
Within the market there are lots of trade stands and stalls offering services from health checks for your animals with the local vet to health checks for yourself with the local outreach nurses. Now I visit livestock markets regularly (mainly within the East Midlands region) and I am always fascinated by them. I love meeting all the local characters and hearing the latest news from the 'farm gate'. The market place is the ideal meeting point for the local farming fraternity who come to not only sell or buy stock but to catch up on what is happening further away than their farm hedgerows.
The market cafe at Bakewell is aptly named the 'Farmers Feast' and you will always find it packed full of hungry country folk tucking into a wholesome full english brekkie - the ideal pitstop after ferrying stock from across the peaks all morning. The cafe is very reasonably prices, service with a smile and only the best produce is used. Mug of tea for a pound and a sausage cob for two - ideal!
Now I would like to know which market cafe would be rated the best. After all I think they provide a fantastic service to the farming community and are the unsung heroes of the livestock market. You are always guaranteed a good feed, the opportunity to have a rest and catch up on the farming gossip. I'm only have opinions on Bakewell, Newark and Thrapston market but would love to know if the service is the same across the country! And maybe we can get them involved in Farmhouse Breakfast week between 23rd and 29th January 2011
Charity Chick x
Yesterday I was in Boston, Lincolnshire representing RABI at a social care initiative launch hosted by First Contact. It was a great opportunity to meet other organisations within the third sector and make them aware of the support services that RABI have to offer.
Lincolnshire Police also had a stand at the event and when I found the opportunity I went over to have a chat with them. I wanted to talk to them about road safety issues and rural crime as during my year as agriculture and rural affairs chairman for NFYFC I want to focus on some of these topics. It suddenly occured to me from reading the Farmers Weekly a few weeks ago that it was the Lincolnshire Police force who have recently received a donation of a John Deere 'police' tractor sponsored by JD and the NFU. I had to enquire about it!
Low and behold the tractor was parked outside on the market square so I got very excited and wanted to have my photo taken with it - naturally!
But on a serious note, is this tractor going to be a deterrent for rural crime or is it simply another gimic or toy for the police force to play with? The tractor drew a large crowd to the market place and people were asking all sorts of silly and daft questions like 'has it been involved in a high speed car chase yet? ' and 'how fast does it go, about 90MPH?'
I think the initiative together with farm and business countrywatch is great for raising awareness of rural crime issues, especially in the Lincolnshire area where numerous tractors have been stolen recently. Everywhere the tractor has appeared it has created lots of excitement and drawn a good crowd. However are people taking it seriously or do they think it is a joke? And it is delivering the correct message to the right people? After all, the people suffering from rural crime are generally working hard on the farm, not shopping in local town centres. I'm going to keep tabs on this scheme to see how effective it is, I'm just glad that the police force are looking forward at ways to tackle rural crime.
This weekend I travelled up to Wrexham university to represent NFYFC at the Wales YFC annual general meeting. Having not been to a Wales convention before I wasn't quite sure what to expect other than I knew the proceedings would be on a smaller scale to NFYFC due to the difference in membership numbers.
On the Friday night we were treated to a Baverian themed evening and met up with the other 5 nations representatives. We danced the night away and retired back to our student digs for the night. One thing is for sure is that I could not be a student again! I forgot how small and uncomfortable the accommodation was - or perhaps I'm getting old and enjoy my creature comforts!
Saturday morning brought the annual general meeting where we listened to reports from the national officer team and the retiring chairman Tim John. Enfys Evans from Ceredigion was then proposed as the new Wales YFC Chairperson for 2010- 2011. Tim also presented a cheque to his chosen charity; Kidney Wales Foundation for over £20,000. The 5 nation representatives also had the opportunities to greet the members with news from their federation.
After a short 5 nations meeting we took part in various team building games with other Wales YFC members. It was a great way to get involved with everyone and make new friends. Each team member took part in a challenge to win points for the team. Challenges included 'how many chocolate fingers could you fit in your mouth' 'can you eat 2 doughnuts without licking your lips' and finally a treasure hunt where we had to race to get something before everyone else. Items included 5 pairs of flip flops, a book of stamps, a bra and 3 empty bottles of WKD!!!
That evening we were treated to a lovely meal before attending the Freshers ball. Members had travelled from all over Wales to take part in the weekend and you could see that although Wales YFC are a smaller federation than NFYFC, they come together forming a united front.
It was great to be a part of another federations AGM convention weekend and I hope that I have the opportunity in the future to represent my country once again
Charity Chick x
RABI has been celebrating it's 150th anniversary this year and as part of my role I have been in charge of managing events across the East Midlands region. My flagship event this Autumn is 'Drinks at the Castle' hosted at Belvoir Castle on Thursday 21st October by kind permission of their Graces The Duke and Duchess of Rutland.
Guests have the opportunity to have a look around the castle, enjoy drinks and canapes and take part in our charity auction. We have some fantastic prizes including a day for 4 in the House of Lords with Baroness Byford, a Blackbrook Longhorn meat hamper, a childrens pedal tractor and a case of wine.. more things are to be added...
John Deere UK have been great in helping to sponsor the event and it was brilliant to work with their PR agency to design and print the promotional flyers and tickets. They have kindly donated a lawnmower into the auction - anyone want to put a bid in?!
Tickets are just £25 which includes food and drink and all proceeds go towards supporting farming families across Leicestershire. To book tickets call Dianne on: 07811 797532 or Veronica: 01827 880019
I've really got behind the Leicestershire committee who are organising the event, however it is quite a full time job on it's own seeking sponsorship, auction prizes, sending out invitations, selling tickets and getting local publicity. But it will all be worth it in the end. I'd really like to get a few more sponsors for the event so that we can promote local businesses on the evening and ensure that as much money goes towards RABI as possible.
I'm also working on getting a few local celebrities there. Julian White the England International/Leicester Tigers player should hopefully be making an appearance and I'm hoping Countryfile's Julia Bradbury and cricket legend Jonathan Agnew say yes too - keep your fingers crossed for me - Any suggestions on other local celebrities with a farming connection in the area would be welcomed!
Its definately turning out to be a glitzy affair. A lot of the lifestyle magazines are wanting to cover the event including Leicestershire life. I just hope we can get plenty of people there and raise a considerable amount. And I also need to find myself a new dress for the occassion - Wish me luck!
Charity Chick x
I'm really excited to be writing a blog on the Farmers weekly website for the first time! I'm hoping that my 'chatter' gathers support and interest in the many number of things I get up to in the countryside each month. From attending agricultural show to national conferences, fundraising events to presentations and of course my other big passion - Young farmers, I hope to give an insight into the community in which I work, live and play in.
Now for those of you who havent guessed yet by the name of my blog, I work for the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (www.rabi.org.uk) as a regional officer covering the East Midlands region. My role is really varied and thats what excites me about the job - no two days are the same! I really enjoy the fundraising element of the job as it is very rewarding to know that the money raised will go to supporting farming families when they fall on hard times. And by going on welfare visits you can really see how our support makes a difference - thats what motivates me the most!
I also really enjoy the PR and marketing side of the job, working with local media to ensure people are aware of the work of RABI and promoting up and coming fundraising events - so thank you Tim and Rachel for suggesting I had a go at a blog!
When I'm not working, I like nothing more than getting stuck in with my roles in young farmers. At the moment I am currently... wait for it... take a deep breath before reading this... Press Officer for Grendon YFC... NFU and Council rep for Northamptonshire YFC... Vice area chairman for East Midlands region... and Vice Agriculture and Rural Affairs group chairman for the National federation (www.nfyfc.org.uk ) so I'm sure there will be lots to tell here...
And when I'm not doing any of the above, I enjoy getting out and about in the countryside (especially on a horse), catching up with friends and family or relaxing by the fire with a good ol glass of wine and watch rubbish on the TV.
So hopefully by now you get the general jist of me and that you enjoy reading my future postings. Over the coming months I have plenty going on which I'm sure will feature at some stage... Ploughing matches... Harvest festivals... Moving house ..(Eek!)...Wales YFC AGM.. I think that will get me off to a good start.
Charity chick x