Shaping My Future

With a passion for agriculture and business, my involvement in Young Farmers has been invaluable in aiding me in my career. As a member of Honiton Young Farmers Club for fourteen years, I have more recently been elected as Chairman of the Devon and Vice-Chairman of the National Federation of Young Farmers Clubs (NFYFC). What an honour it is to be in these roles and I look forward to the opportunities and challenges ahead of me as they arise, although the prospect is a little daunting. As life navigates its way out of strange Covid times, many of the elements of YFC are returning to normal. This brings great opportunities and as an organisation we hope to reap the benefits by gaining new members and having a positive impact in the rural community.

Young Farmers is a fantastic organisation, not only do you have the opportunity to travel the world, but you also learn how to speak in public and can take part in all sorts of experiences which I believe no other organisation provides. Not only that, you will also make some great friends and contacts along the way. Without the skills I have learnt, I would not be sat in the position I am now both in YFC and my career. The skills that I have learnt would be too long to list, but most notably I have grown in confidence.

The exposure to the wider agricultural industry cannot be underestimated and the network of people is huge, the membership covers a vast range of professions and areas and this can be extremely valuable for all types of situations. Devon YFC have an extensive agricultural programme which consists of various mediums from debates, seminars, discussion groups and farm walks. We are lucky to have a pool of industry specialists who are past members who want to work with us to discuss current affairs with our members. At the last Devon County Show the debate in the YFC tent had the topic of “Will smarter technology produce smarter farmers”. It is clear from these debates that although we all face the same challenges within the industry, there are many different views and members are excited for change. What was encouraging is that although technology is improving at alarmingly fast speeds, the consensus is that you will never be able to fully replace the farmer.

What has become apparent, within my roles at YFC, is the importance of sharing knowledge; knowledge is power after all. Farming is much more than just looking after animals and growing crops, every business needs a businessman, a scientist, IT specialists, HR experience, the list could go on. The more we share of the challenges and opportunities the better we will become as an industry, equipped with the skills and insight to make our farming businesses work within a fast-changing world. As part of my NFYFC role, I sit on the Agri Steering Group, with farmers and professionals spanning the country. The group meets every three weeks to discuss all current affairs in the industry and are often in discussion groups with Defra and other key stakeholders.

One topic of discussion that has recently been raised is carbon and offsetting which is now becoming familiar to us all. As a group we are working alongside the AHDB to help understand the requirements for a carbon tool measurement. Alongside the carbon project the key project for the Agri Steering Group is the YFC AGRI Future Land Use research project. As a collective we are looking at ways farmers cannot only satisfy the environmental requirements but also ensuring we are effective and efficiently producing food.

A current topic which has sparked a lot of debate is Defra’s ‘Lump sum exit scheme and delinked payments’. As a generation we can see the intention in encouraging the older generation to pass on or sell land in exchange for cash is a step forward. In recent discussions with the Agri Steering Group, it was concluded that the biggest barrier to entry into farming is capital. As a generation, without sound financial support or farming already in the family, it is likely we will struggle to enter the industry. It is encouraged that more emphasis should be put into education and opportunities such as share farming arrangements.

The Agri Steering Group is a key part of the YFC movement and we are always encouraging feedback from everyone regarding the projects completed. I feel a real sense of responsibility that, as part of the team at NFYFC, we promote the engagement and feedback from our members as they are the future of the industry.

I feel very strongly about the mental health and wellbeing of my peers within the agricultural industry. It is little wonder that mental health is a big problem within the agricultural industry, two of the biggest influences are completely out of our control - the weather and commodity prices. The biggest area we need to combat is the stigma that surrounds mental health. I am an advocate of the saying “It’s ok not to be ok”. As a part of my Young Farmers involvement, right up to the national level, I work with charities such as Yellow Wellies, Farming Community Network (FCN) and RABI who are invaluable as we are able to reach a large audience of not only young farmers but their families, friends and colleagues. I am proud to be a trainer of the ‘Rural Plus Curve Module’, delivered to members and their families which raises awareness of mental health and how to deal with different situations.

It is now more crucial than ever to be part of a community that cares about our mental wellbeing. Young Farmers is a powerful community and not only does it provide a safe place for members to speak up, but it is often the only opportunity members have to socialise or to get away from the farm. Everyone deserves time out from their stressful lives and for some the only time is at their local meeting or catchup. We have all been through a tough 18 months and we are yet to come out of the other side, many people maybe struggling and that is ok. I look forward to the times ahead and know that Young Farmers will emerge from the Covid cloud stronger than ever before.

As I progress in my Young Farmers career over the next couple of years, I hope to inspire others to take on roles and push themselves out of their comfort zones, so they experience at least some of the opportunities that are out there. I would like to encourage more discussion within the industry in both agricultural and personal matters, so we all grow as better equipped individuals as we progress with our own businesses and careers.

Rosie Bennett ACCA


Written by Rosie Bennett ACCA

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