Change on the cards as YFCU takes on farming’s big issues in 3-year plan

Major changes are on the way at Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster (YFCU) as the organisation takes on some of agriculture’s heaviest issues in its bold new strategic plan.

Farm safety, agricultural skills training and even antimicrobial resistance are all among the issues listed as core priorities for the Northern Ireland rural youth organisation.

The document, which covers right up until 2021, aims to continue to grow membership as well as further the engagement of YFCU’s existing members.

In just seven years, membership has risen from 2,500 to 3,000. During this time the upper age of the organisation was increased to 30 from 25. However, just 100 of the additional members can be attributed to this.

Chief executive Michael Reid explained: “As an organisation, we are all about skills, vibrancy, inclusivity and embracing our uniqueness and it’s trying to make those words come to life.

Fundamentally, if you join YFCU, you will be in a better shape by the time you leave than when you first signed up – and this is really what we want to build on.

“Some of our 11-year-old members will be well educated and have a very clear path of where they want to go while others will barely be involved in their schooling at all.

“What Young Farmers does – whether you are that young person who wants to go off to university to study law or agriculture, or whatever you want to do, or whether you are not really engaged in education – is to help develop you.”

Leadership skills

The organisation already boasts a range of competitions from public speaking and tug ‘o’ war through to fencing and stock judging. However, the plan is to build upon the skills members gain with formal training.

For instance, members already have opportunities to get involved in the running of their club, chair meetings, and take part in committee meetings.

However, the new programmes will include facilitation training which will demonstrate how skills learned in the club hall can transfer into the workplace.

Major plans also include the development of an agri-food leaders programme as well as a careers hub to help those looking to work in the industry.

YFCU will also be forging closer relationships with the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE). Currently, both organisations are jointly providing first aid training opportunities for all members of farming families.

Agricultural qualifications

Other changes include four new AQA qualifications – two of which will be agri-environment based.

As part of this, YFCU will forge a deeper relationship with the training organisation LANTRA to provide an expanded range of courses.

Previous feedback from YFCU environmental projects found that members were keen to relate the environment back to farming, so the new programmes will take a more agricultural approach to going green.

Helping to tackle antimicrobial resistance and the need to further improve biosecurity on farms are also listed among issues members are keen to get training on.

Farm Safety

Improving farm safety awareness on farms has been a core objective for YFCU over the past number of years.

However, the organisation now wants to move the conversation on from awareness to behavioural change – to make sure that farmers and farm children are actually putting into practice what they know.

YFCU has already made headway in some of the areas with six ‘farm safety ambassadors’ already appointed.

Another interesting aspect of the plan is to conduct research into the attitudes of farmers and young farmers towards farm safety. A critical element to this will be identifying the cause of the gap between farm safety knowledge and actions.

The organisation hopes to work with a post-graduate student to garner the information which it will use to shape its future policies.