There was a fantastic turnout for the Yorkshire Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs (YFYFC) annual forum, held by kind permission of Thirsk Auction Mart.
Panellists covered a wide range of subjects including housing, Brexit and succession planning and much more under the general heading of “What next for the Great British countryside?”
The panel was made up of former National Farmers’ Union (NFU) representative in Brussels, James Mills, who has recently returned home to work on his family’s sheep and arable farm near York, Pennine sheep farmer and NFU member David Airey, chief operating officer of the Local Enterprise Partnership for North & East Yorkshire James Farrar, and former MP Anne McIntosh, now Baroness of Pickering. The evening was chaired by former chairman of YFYFC Ian Close.
Panellists, from Left: James Mills, Baroness Macintosh of Pickering, Chair Ian Close, David Airey & James Farrar
Talking about the government’s handling of Brexit, James Mills said the farming community was tired of “short-term policies” when they are trying to operate long-term businesses and environmental strategies.
David Airey urged the younger members of the audience to get engaged in all the current farming debates and start telling the public what great they do.
“You kids have to start selling what you do,” he said. “The likes of Facebook and Twitter are the way forward. The general public need to know that it’s the farmer who mends the wall and hangs the gate that makes the countryside they walk through more attractive. They need to understand that Great Britain wouldn’t look like it does without us, the farmer.”
Baroness McIntosh seconded this, saying: “The message is never more credible than when it is from the farmer.”
James Farrar urged the audience to remain positive and use Brexit to take stock and make sure their farms are fit for purpose.
“Whatever happens, we need to make the sure the next generation has the skills they need to survive; to make sure their businesses are fit for purpose.”
Other subjects like the lack of retirement opportunities for farmers were discussed. David Airey remembered when most estate villages had cottages for retired tenant farmers, pointing out that buying a property in rural areas is often beyond the purse of many, especially when money is tied up in land, machinery and livestock.
Baroness McIntosh pointed out the fact she only ever seems to see executive homes being built in the countryside.
“We need smaller affordable homes for those just starting out and those retiring,” she said.
James Farrar added: “If you want a bus, shop, pub and school in your village you need new housing. To retain young people in the countryside we need affordable places for them to live.”
Ian Close wrapped up the meeting by urging delegates to go away and “be positive, think outside the box and sell yourselves” before thanking panellists, sponsors and all those who made the event possible.
Yorkshire Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs would like to thank all Panellists, Thirsk Auction Mart and event sponsors, Farmers and Mercantile Insurance Brokers.