National Federation of Young Farmers' Clubs

Fun, Learning, and Achievement

31 January 2019

What’s it like when you’re asked to represent YFC at a meeting with external organisations? Two YFC members share their experiences. 

Stephen Taylor, Chair of Vale O’ Lune YFC shares his views after attending an NFU Business Symposium in London 

Where was the meeting?

In London and I had to set off from Botton Head Farm in Lancashire at 5.30am in the pickup. I had to use some of my brew to thaw the lock to get into the pickup as it was -4c.

I got the 6.30am train to London and had to navigate the Underground, which was hot, stuffy and over-crowded!

I received a warm welcome from anyone I spoke to at the event though and they were keen to see the next generation coming through to NFU. Especially when I was from such a great area of the country, which was otherwise not represented.

What happened at the meeting?

Guy Smith, NFU's Deputy President, gave the welcoming address, before Paul Aplin President of the ICAEW talked about the autumn budget and Brexit (uncertainty and investment). Paul gave advice about resilience in the event of interest rates rising and said to ensure that all costing and figures are up to date and in place. He also advised that pushing for productivity should mean increasing efficiencies rather than just producing more and more.

The most inspirational talk of the day was from Patrick Hook of P.D. Hook (Hatcheries) Ltd. They hatch 9.5 million chicks per week over eight UK sites after starting out from Patrick's grandfather’s small chicken shed. They employ 2,000 people and I was interested to hear how positive he was about using people to do the work as opposed to robot technology. However, he did outline some areas they have been able to mechanise.

Jane King, CEO of AHDB, spoke about the work the AHDB is doing for the levy fee, promoting productivity and efficiency. They are working with farmers, identifying what holds us back with online tools and interactive forums such as ‘what works’ and the ‘Brexit calculator’ and ‘farm bench’. She also explained how they are investing in a programme for training and inspiring the next generation and new entrants.

The final speaker of the day was Nick von Westonholz, NFU director of EU Exit and National Trade. He highlighted lots of threats, but also possible opportunities for the next farming generation. However, what will actually happen is still unknown. There are three possibilities Deal, No Deal and Remain and the prospects for British farming are very uncertain. (See more information here about the government’s advice regarding a no-deal Brexit).

To end the meeting there was open discussion with questions from the floor to a panel of speakers that included Tim Mordan, Deputy Director, Farming Productivity at Defra.

They answered a number of questions, including those about legislation to support tenant farmers in the Agriculture Bill. They also discussed what drives confidence in the industry and investment. The question was posed: ‘what would you ask Santa for Christmas to boost confidence to invest in farming?’ The answers given were along the lines of: Knowledge of what will happen in the future, plans of trade deals and pricing structure along with security.

Did you meet anyone?

In the breaks I was able to chat to people from the NFU and was able to network with people and ask their thoughts on the day.

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AGRI Steering Group member and deputy CLA rep Greg Colebrook also represented YFC last November at the CLA Rural Business Conference.

What was the conference about? 

A day that focused on rural diversification. Secretary of State Michael Gove spoke about future food and farming policies and there was a wide range of business case studies. These included restaurants, agroforestry, commercial letting, residential development, motorway service stations, a wedding venue, a cookery school and organic veg box schemes.

What was the highlight of your experience?

An inspiring presentation from Henry Dimbleby, founder of LEON fast food chain about his company’s business model and a fast food ethos that’s good for you, giving an interesting insight into the way we might eat food in the future.

Did you enjoy representing YFC? 

It was a very worthwhile conference and I left feeling very inspired. I would recommend it to anyone in the future.

Find out more about representing YFC and getting involved with the AGRI Steering Group.  



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