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Honiton Show young farmers with trophies

Young farmers with their trophies at the Honiton Show in 2018 - Credit: Tim Dixon

Young Farmers is one of the largest rural youth organisations in the UK – dedicated to young people who love agriculture and rural life. However, you don’t need to be a farmer to join. The membership is very diverse, which means that there really is something for everyone. 

The organisation is led by young people and is for young people.  Young Farmers provides members aged 10 to 26 with a unique opportunity to develop skills, work with their local community, travel abroad, take part in competitions and enjoy a dynamic social life.

In East Devon we have six young farmers clubs – Axminster, Culm Valley, Honiton, Sid and Otter, Whimple and Broadclyst and Yarcombe). Before the Covid-19 pandemic, our clubs had action-packed calendars with social events, competitions and skills for life amongst many other activities. All six clubs are focused on fundraising for charity, with the group raising a total of £44,000 in 2019-2020. However, due to the Covid-19 restrictions, we have had to adapt and change the way we interact to keep our members involved and active.

Before the last lockdown, clubs had organised socially distanced events in accordance with the government guidelines. Honiton and Yarcombe both held wreath makings evenings while Whimple and Broadclyst and Culm Valley hosted a pumpkin carving evening. On top of that, Axminster held an evening of go karting while Honiton had a farm walk. 

The Young Farmers movement gives members the opportunity to learn a number of essential skills such as public speaking and a range of professional qualifications whilst also having a great time! These skills not only help when seeking a job but also help the individual’s confidence at a personal level. We have therefore continued speaking competitions virtually in the lockdown, with East Devon having members involved in a wide range of competitions from junior reading to debating. 

Webinars have also been organised for members to have the opportunity to keep learning – such as successive planning and net zero workshops. In particular, the net zero workshops are in partnership with the National Farmers Union to help educate members to measure their carbon emissions and make appropriate changes. This is to help achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions across the whole of agriculture in England and Wales by 2040. 

Mental health is a huge problem in the agricultural industry, with many farmers leading isolated lives. This issue has only worsened due to the pandemic, with 88 per cent of 450 young farmers believing that poor mental health was the biggest hidden problem faced by farmers. Moreover, 89 per cent of these same individuals agreed that talking about the issue would help to remove the stigma around it and encourage those in need of help to speak out.

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In light of this, Young Farmers have arranged a Growing Healthy Minds fortnight to try and combat this issue in order to support our members.

However, that isn’t all! As part of our Growing Healthy Minds fortnight, from March 1 to 12, the Devon Federation of Young Farmers has recently challenged its members to walk, cycle or run the distance across the Atlantic Ocean (a total of 3,310 miles!) to keep them fit and healthy. In short, this means that every group has been challenged to complete at least 560 miles. This will involve members recording when they are exercising on Strava, with each group then competing to cover the highest total mileage.

Although we are in a pandemic, Young Farmers as a federation is doing all it can to keep going and support members throughout these difficult times. In my opinion, Young Farmers has a wonderful influence upon so many young people and without our members we cannot succeed in the ways we do. Therefore, if you know anyone who is contemplating joining Young Farmers, please do encourage them as I’m sure they will have a brilliant time with like-minded individuals.

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