As the NFU opens up entries for its 2024 “student and young farmer ambassadors” programme, some of the current crop have been reflecting on their experiences.
Now in its fifth year, the 12-month scheme gives young people the opportunity to advocate for British agriculture and learn about the industry, developing related skills and networking with like-minded young people.
Three young farmers tell us what their experience of being ambassadors was like.
Amanda Watson, a 25-year-old young farmer and current ambassador based in North Yorkshire, said that the programme has allowed her to develop a deeper understanding of agricultural policy.
“It’s been interesting to learn about what the union is doing behind the scenes, especially with policy and ensuring the voices of farmers are heard,” she said.
“The biggest take-home has been the policy part for me, and understanding how we get our messages across into politics where they need to be.
“It’s understanding that we really need to be quite clever as an industry in influencing politics to go in the way that we need it to.”
Another current ambassador, 25-year-old Hamish Evans, who has a market garden business near Bath, says that the programme can open doors for those that aren’t from a traditional farming background.
“I applied because I was getting more interested in building bridges in the organic and regenerative world and connecting with other farmers, finding out about how they are making transitions,” he said.
“It’s also been a really good opportunity to meet other young growers from very different backgrounds, that have perhaps studied or come to the industry via a more formal route.
“I would definitely encourage others to get involved with it, especially for those that feel they may not fit the mould of standard farming.”
But not everyone’s experience is so positive.
Flavian Obiero is a member of the NFU’s Next Generation Forum and says that, while the student and young farmer ambassador programme is a good way to introduce young people to the industry, he is left asking “what’s next?” after the programme.
“There have been talks of getting rid of the ‘next gen’ forum,” he said.
“The fact that we have had to arrange a meeting with the NFU to explain the importance of the next gen – I think that’s a problem.
“Where do these programmes lead to? What is it actually bringing to the industry? My opinion? It’s a tick-box, waste of time.”
Find out more and apply about the programme on the NFU website.