Young Farmers’ Club membership plea as renewals drop

Young farmers are being urged to renew their club memberships amid concern that cash-strapped county federations are struggling in the face of dwindling support during the coronavirus crisis.

Only one in three members have renewed their Young Farmers’ Club (YFC) membership from last year. It is thought the lack of physical events, meetings and activities as a result of Covid-19 restrictions is behind the alarming drop-off.

See also: Yorkshire young farmer elected NFYFC chairman

The National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs (NFYFC) said it took prudent steps in 2020 to ensure it could stay afloat during the crisis and recover quickly when all activities could resume, so there was no immediate danger the organisation would  fold.

But Rachel Goldie, the new NFYFC chairman, said county federations and their YFCs needed members more than ever.

Show your support

“I urge all YFC members to join their YFC again and help support the work they are continuing to do for rural young people and to ensure their club can survive these uncertain times,” Ms Goldie said.

“Lots of people are joining in with online YFC activities and not always paying for their membership. I hope that everyone can show their support so YFC is around for generations to come.”

Ms Goldie said YFCs had been “nothing short of remarkable” during the pandemic by adapting to run online meetings, events, training and hosting guest speakers. “NFYFC has also supported county federations with weekly workshops and information about Covid-19 restrictions, governance, club programming and admin tips,” she added.

Value of YFCs

Sam Oatey, chairman of Probus YFC in Cornwall, said his club was covering the fee for any members who were signed up last year, in light of the pandemic. The Probus club is able to do this using reserve funds, but this will not be an option for all clubs.

“We know the value of young farmers’ clubs,” he added. “Year on year it is the chance to meet people with similar interests. If people don’t sign up, clubs will start folding, then county federations and potentially the national federation if there are no members at all.

“It is about looking to the future and thinking what the knock-on effects could be of people not signing up.”

NFYFC launched the Give it Some YFC Welly relay in October 2020 to encourage YFC members to raise money for their county federations.

Ms Goldie said: “Many of our county federations have struggled, with the cancellation of popular rallies, shows and fundraising events.

“We have so far raised over £19,000 but there are many more county federations still to take part.”

The organisation’s highly valued competition programme, including public speaking, is still running this year despite restrictions. There will be 29 finals, held online or in person if rules allow.

County federations in the north will be the first to hold their competition weekend virtually on 27-28 February.

NFYFC said it will take guidance from the National Youth Agency about when clubs can resume physical meetings again.

Farmers Weekly says…

“Use it or lose it” is an adage that is sounding increasingly pertinent as financial pressure mounts on Young Farmers’ Clubs (YFCs) around the country, writes executive editor Philip Clarke.

The National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs insists that it is in no immediate danger, but the fact that just one in three members have renewed their membership surely flashes a warning sign. There will certainly be individual clubs where the financials don’t look so clever.

It’s easy to understand people’s reluctance to recommit – online events don’t come close to the real face-to-face experiences YFC membership usually entails. Some individuals will also be strapped for cash in these Covid times.

But membership is not expensive – and the multiple benefits of being involved in YFC are clear. Locally and nationally, the organisation offers a friendship network and social opportunities in often isolated rural areas.

It also helps to educate and train the next generation of farmers, while its impact on confidence building and developing people for future leadership roles is legendary – just ask current Defra secretary George Eustice.

And throughout the coronavirus pandemic, YFCs have pulled out the stops with their charitable work, helping ensure local, vulnerable people are supported and cared for.

With the end of lockdown in sight, there is optimism that life will soon be getting back to normal. By renewing membership, individuals can help ensure their local YFC will still be there to continue its essential and multiple roles in future.

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