There will be no passing a mandarin from mouth to mouth at new members’ nights this year as the island’s two main rural youth organisations roll out new Covid-19 training to safeguard members.

Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster (YFCU) will run three ‘Covid officer’ training sessions – the first of which begins tonight (August 25).

South of the border, Covid-19 training has already been completed for almost 200 Macra na Feirme members.

Both organisations have taken a similar approach, requiring clubs to have at least two trained Covid officers in attendance at each event.

Responsibilities of the new role will include carrying out risk assessments, ensuring that control measures are implemented and attending regular Covid-19 video conferences.

The latest for Macra members

Macra na Feirme president Thomas Duffy explained the organisation had even set up a form on its website so that contract tracing can be carried out digitally.

“Attendance at all of our events is recorded online by the secretaries. We don’t allow clubs to use sign-in sheets as they’d be passing a pen and piece of paper around members,” he said.

Changes to Covid measures in the Republic mean that indoor meetings of more than six people cannot currently take place.

Meetings can take place outdoors but must be strictly limited to 15 people.

“We have said they can go for walks or hill climbs; farm walks are ok too, but there must be less than 15 people there. If more than 15 turn up, they must turn them away.

“We are also encouraging clubs to do online activities,” Duffy added.

The latest for YFCU members

YFCU meetings can go ahead indoors. However, each club will need approval from the organisation’s headquarters before they get the go-ahead.

The organisation has decided to follow the lead of the Education Authority, one of its biggest funders.

Club Covid officers will be asked to carry out three assessments for the club covering:

  • Venue (e.g. the club hall);
  • Travel to and from the meeting; and
  • Activities planned.

YFCU then plans to seek advice from the Education Authority before giving each club individual approval to proceed. It’s hoped most clubs will be able to return to meetings around their usual time in September.

YFCU chief executive Michael Reid explained that once meetings are up and running the organisation will also carry out audits to check how well clubs adhere to the advice.

“These will be carried out by our county mentors in a similar fashion to the club efficiency competitions,” he said.

“Our clubs take a roll call at meetings anyway so we will already have a list of members in attendance and their contact details for contact tracing. We want to minimise the admin while trying to keep everyone safe.”

Covid Innovation Grants

It comes as three YFCU clubs have been granted a ‘Covid-19 Innovation Grant’ to support work in their local communities through the pandemic.

The grants of between £200 and £500 have been awarded to:

Newtownhamilton Young Farmers

Newtownhamilton YFC members plan to use the money to help members participate in mental health first aid.

The club also plans to promote social inclusion by encouraging young people to participate in vegetable planting throughout the winter.

Kilraughts Young Farmers

The club wants to expand its community circle by incorporating different activities, such as a mixed sports evenings with a local GAA club. Members hope to learn new skills and gain strong relationships.

Moneymore YFC

Moneymore YFC members plan to work alongside the Moneymore Community Group and trustees of The Manor Heritage Group to help with the upkeep of the Manor House Community gardens.

Members hope to help by painting fences, planting flowers and maintaining flowerbeds.

Emily Fair from Power NI, which is sponsoring the grants, commented: “Congratulations to the clubs on being awarded grants to help their local communities.

“These past few months have been difficult, and it’s amazing to see the innovative ways in which these clubs are helping.”