I, along with my partner in rural crime Becky Whitefoot met Kate Miles who is the chair for Glamorgan YFC. In the space of a couple of hours and a quiet cocktail I learnt more about the organization and it's role amongst society and not just in the farming world.
One of the first statistics that Kate gave us was that less than 50% of YFC members site agriculture as their first business. It highlights the growing strains on the farming industry. Even Kate who has been a member of the YFC since she was a teenager is now a solicitor. Kate pointed out that it's not that the farming life isn't appealing it's just that it's unsustainable. Many young adults can see that you can earn a lot more money by doing a lot less work if you stay out of farming. Subsidies in Wales have helped farmers but it still isn't enough to entice young ambitious workers into the industry.
I used to work as a Dairy Maid and spoke to a Gentleman Milker who spends half the year in Spain and works for 6 months as a Relief Milker in the UK. He assured me he could "get work all year round" if he wanted to, due to the high demand of workers. The farming industry needs to do more to regenerate itself which the YFC works towards.
Not only does the YFC work as a social tool for young farmers, it also provides a much needed learning ground for core life skills and responsible farming. Events such as calf rearing competitions, hedge laying, tractor skills and public speaking are common on the YFC calendar. Then the more exotic features such as international farm meetings, variety shows and drama competitions are also on offer. The Young Farmer's Club is so much more than cider and silage. The diverse and unique opportunities that are available help personal development and provide a sense of community which is lost amongst so many of Britain's teenagers today.
Let's hope that the Young Entrants Scheme set up by the Welsh Assembly Government can help to bring more people back to farming. But even that scheme has its flaws and set backs. The budget for the scheme has been cut and usually the entrants have to raise 50% of the revenue before the grant scheme can come into play. The hill is getting longer and steeper.
So for now most farmers will just have to rely on the groups like the Young Farmers for support and training.
If you are a young entrant thinking of applying or you have applied and not found the project useful why don't you get in touch? We'd love to hear from you