17 May 2002

FUNWITH SERIOUSSIDE, TOO

The Wurzels, big names from the farming world, a

hypnotist, Prince Charles by video-link and 3500

youngsters. Yes, the National Federation of Young Farmers

Clubs annual convention in Blackpool had it all. The event

saw people from across the country descend on Lancashire

for three days of serious – and not-so-serious – pursuits.

Tim Relf and Jonathan Page went armed with a

notepad, a camera and a packet of paracetamol

&#8226 Mark Hudson, deputy president of the CLA, speaking at the Forum: "They say, nowadays, there are four ages of man: Lager, Aga, Saga and Gaga!"

&#8226 Christine Tacon, general manager of Farmcare, speaking at the Forum: The agricultural industry needs to work with advertising agencies and focus groups. "We need to make sure that we market ourselves to the general public. We have to ask: What is the message that would make the British public positive about what we do and say? Marketing is all about the message – and if we are going to throw money at marketing we need to know what turns people on."

&#8226 Lord Plumb, NFYFC deputy president, speaking at the Forum: "When I first joined the Young Farmers, I was taught to Get up, speak up and shut up – and I learnt how to do two of those things!"

&#8226 Michael Paske, NFU vice president, speaking at the Forum: Poor financial returns in farming mean producers should consider carefully the money they contribute to organisations such as the MLC, the HGCA and the BPC. "As an industry, we contribute a lot to our levy bodies. We need to be looking very closely at the way this money is being spent. They cannot take for granted the support they get."

&#8226 Peter Jackson, retiring NFYFC president, speaking at the AGM: "Every one of us – from the top of the top table to the youngest member – needs to be out there getting new members to join the NFYFC."

&#8226 Young Farmer, unidentified, 10.26pm in a bar on Saturday: "I dont feel very well, I think Ive had too much to drink, I think I better get to the toi…"

&#8226 Young Farmer, unidentified, 11.31am, Sunday morning,a street in Blackpool: "Aaargh, never again…"

&#8226 The NFYFCs annual accounts for the year ended Dec 31 showed a year-end surplus of £144,094. Of this, the International Department (mainly the Harvest Opportunity Permit Scheme) contributed a surplus of £209,197, against a loss on other activities of £65,103.

&#8226 The Merrick Burrell Tankard, awarded to the County that has achieved the largest percentage increase in its membership over the past two years, went to Montgomery. The county attracted 60 new members between 1999 and 2001.

&#8226 Presteigne collected the NatWest Countryside Challenge Trophy for a Community Garden project, which involved developing an unused area of community-owned land.

&#8226 Lancashire won the Ladies Netball, Yorkshire took first place in the mens rugby and Worcestershire scooped the honours in the pub quiz.

&#8226 The national levy will be increased by 2.5% for the year from Sept 1, 2002.

Cornwall beat off stiff competition to win the Entertainment final with their presentation of A Barrow Load of Monkies (left).

The audience was also impressed by a performance by 13-year-old Greg Trotter from Northumberland of Innisher, an Irish reel.

This group made the long trip to Blackpool from Oxfordshire. For many, the journey to the seaside town was a nightmare, with traffic bumper-to-bumper along long stretches of the M6.

Lord Plumb – one of the best-known figures in farming – was appointed deputy president of the NFYFCs at the 70th AGM. Hes had a long association with the organisation, first joining 67 years ago. "This is the finest youth organisation in this country, if not the world," he said.

Having fun has always been central to life with the Young Farmers – and this group certainly look as if theyre enjoying themselves! Other fun events included ten-pin bowling and karaoke. Fair to say, one or two beers were consumed during the weekend, too.

This was one of the many teams taking part in the karaoke competition. Those taking the mic ranged in terms of musical skills from the gifted to the, er how shall we put it, enthusiastic but less able! The compere even welcomed one competitor onto the stage whod lost her voice.

The Wurzels got one of the biggest cheers of the weekend when they appeared on stage. The groups gig included two versions of their cult hit Combine Harvester, which topped the charts in 1976. "The atmosphere was magic – it was electric," said band member Tommy Banner. "It was well worth the horrific journey up to Blackpool on Friday."