Charlie Beaty: Us ‘oldies’ could be the saviour of YFC

Heck, I never thought I’d agree with a Royal Agricultural University student – but I certainly did when reading Bridgette Baker’s column (Farmlife, 14 May).

I have so much to thank the National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs for. I’ve been a member for nearly 13 years now (ouch, that hurt to say), and am currently vice-chairman of my club, Coleshill, and Warwickshire county. While we’re optimistic that normality will resume, it’s a worry that the smaller clubs may struggle to thrive again.

The coming year was set to be my final as an “official” young farmer. But on 29 April, members voted (with a huge 81.4% in favour) to push back the expiration date of us “oldies” to 28.

See also: Charlie Beaty – I’m up for a staycation

That increase in the upper age limit of two years may not seem like a big deal, but it will be the saviour of many Young Farmers’ Clubs (YFCs). So many members head off to university or travel at 18, so coming back and rejoining may seem a bit futile with only a couple of years left. Clubs then struggle to fill roles, counties even more so. Hopefully, this will ease some of that pressure.

As Bridgette mentioned, membership levels are also significantly down – a large chunk of lost income for county organisations. Running costs have barely altered, but income has been hit. No membership, no socials, no competitions, no bars, no money.

I hope to be a YFC parent one day. It’s a long way off yet, but there is plenty that can be done now to ensure that the organisation is thriving for future generations.

Whether it’s learning a skill, finding a job or meeting a spouse, there are a lot who have plenty to thank YFC for. A recent clearout of the Warwickshire county office unearthed a mountain of old county handbooks. We had a great time flicking back through them – especially enjoying the “Catches, matches and hatches” pages, listing the engagements, marriages and subsequent new arrivals of members (I soon found my parents in there!).

It’s not just down to current members to save the organisation. Buying a raffle ticket, offering a field for an event or heading to the club harvest supper – there are so many ways you can show your support.

Surely it’s a small price to pay for the best years of our lives?