Sarah Ford talks to Somerset's Young Farmers Club members as they celebrate a special 75th

PUBLISHED: 19:35 20 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:06 20 February 2013

Competitors at the ready in the bale rolling competition. PHOTOS: KATE HAYES

Competitors at the ready in the bale rolling competition. PHOTOS: KATE HAYES

As they celebrate a special 75th anniversary, Somersets Young Farmers Club members tell Sarah Ford what it means to be part of the largest rural youth organisation of its kind in the UK.

Sarah Ford talks to Somerset's Young Farmers Club members as they celebrate a special 75th

If you were to pop along to any of the 25 Young Farmers clubs across Somerset, chances are you would meet folk from all walks of life. Its true that many work in the agricultural industry, but their fellow members are just as likely to be accountants, builders, mechanics,teachers, midwives or property developers. Because as any Young Farmer will tell you: "You don't have to be one to be one!"

It's a big year for the county's 800 or so members as the Somerset Federation has reached its 75th anniversary. What began in 1934 as a farming education organisation has evolved to include many other activities, such as public speaking, drama and sports, as well as more agriculturally related events and activities.

The Somerset YFC office and function rooms are housed in The Old School in Westonzoyland and it is here that I meet up with Somerset County Chairman, Roy Hayes. A Catchment Farming Officer, advising farmers and land managers, Roy has been a member of YFC since he was 15. He says the movement offers something no other youth organisation can for people aged 10 to 26 from any background. "They can take part in club, group, county, regional and nationally organised events and competitions, learn personal and development skills and be involved in running their own club with ex-elder members acting just as an advisory."

He tells me that the YFC has supported many initiatives such as tackling sexual health education, bullying, racism and alcohol abuse, plus the Farm Crisis Network.
Tractor pulls, bed pushes, 'muckathons' and 'shearathons' are just some of the ways that the YFC raises money and the Somerset clubs combined annually raise between 20,000 and 30,000 which they distribute to charities such as Devon & Somerset Air Ambulance, Cancer Research and Riding for the Disabled. Says Roy: "We frequently raise money for various local charities and help communities, when asked, with projects like planting trees, clearing play areas, running bars, and pulling cars out of fields from village events when they are stuck!"

What the members say
Ask any Young Farmer what being a member has done for them and they will come up with a long list of skills they have learned, from after-dinner speaking to first aid. But always at the top of that list will be the confidence it has given them and the fantastic network of friends it has provided.

Becky Hurd says that Young Farmers is in the blood, her parents having met through the organisation. A PA, Becky is Vice Chair and Secretary of Wiveliscombe Young Farmers.
"It's true that you make friends for life. There are so many things you can experience, whether its on the Discovery Programme travelling or a weekend in Blackpool for the National AGM, fundraising through sponsored events, carol-singing, balls and discos, dinners and dances, rallies and shows, sports, stock judging; all of it is absolutely priceless.

"A particularly memorable moment was my godfather's face at the West Group Entertainments Round when the curtains opened and I was prancing around in a Moulin Rouge costume - I don't think he knew whether to laugh or cry."

James Baker is Chairman of Farrington Gurney YFC and County Sports Chairman for Somerset. On leaving school he went to work on a Duchy Farm and is now a self-employed agricultural contractor.
"At the time, I joined purely for the social side of things, then after becoming a member I realised what opportunities YFC can give you.

"YFC has made me a much more confident person and given me a group of friends that are more like an extended family. It gives everyone skills for life including basic things like public speaking. There are many memorable moments, although I think the best ones are probably not fit for printing!"

Legal Secretary Clare Williams belongs to Exmoor Young Farmers' Club and is currently Secretary of West Group (Cutcombe, Exmoor, Kingsbrompton, Williton and Wiveliscombe).
Her parents were also members of YFC.
"Holding club and group posts has given me a lot of organisational skills and people skills. West Group hosted the Somerset County Rally last year and I was Handicrafts Secretary; this was a very full-on job, but I learned so much doing it. I have also organised dinners, discos and rallies.

"This will be my second year as Somerset Young Farmers' Bath and West Show Marquee Co-ordinator and last year we were lucky enough to have a visit from Princess Anne to the Young Farmers' Marquee; she spent a long time looking around the marquee and she stopped and spoke to us all individually."

Tom Bye has been a member of Young Farmers for eight years and he is Chairman of North Somerset YFC.
"The best things about being a Young Farmer are the Nationals, the social life, sports, and meeting new people. Being Chairman has improved my organisational skills and given me confidence.
"Our club has won the competitions cup for the last three years at the Somerset YFC Rally. I was filmed by the Farmers Weekly in Blackpool for Nationals 2008 and the video is now on Youtube."

Currently studying for her BTEC in Childcare at Bridgwater College, Hannah Dyer is Vice Chairman and Treasurer of Bridgwater YFC.
"All of my family have been involved in Young Farmers; my grandparents, aunties, uncles and mum and dad all met in Young Farmers before marrying. I wanted to join because I had heard a lot of good reports about it and I haven't looked back since. It was the best thing I ever did.
"I have taken on many posts and these have equipped me with the social, leadership and team-working skills I need to go far in life. In 2007 I travelled to Finland with a group of 22 Young Farmers from all over England and Wales to an international youth camp. This has to be one of my best experiences."

Environmental Consultant Poppy Arnett has held various roles with Williton and District YFC and became hooked by the idea of joining after attending a carol-singing event.
"Quite simply, Young Farmers has made me who I am. Some may beg to differ, but, I was once quite shy! I have learned so much and made so many friends that I sometimes wonder what I would be doing if I hadn't joined.
"In what other organisation would you find so many people you can call friends, where else can you talk to complete strangers and have so much in common? Where else can you gain skills for life for free? The best bit about being in Young Farmers is the camaraderie."

  • Come and join them!
    Farrington Gurney YFC have a joint raft race with Mendip Farmers' Hunt at Whitchurch Farm, Ston Easton on 4 July. Further information: 0776 6542930

  • During the weekend of 11 and 12 July the County Offices in Westonzoyland will open its doors to the local community. For more information on Somerset YFC please contact the County Office on 01278 691711, e-mail or visit

  • On 18 July North Somerset YFC hold their annual Claverham Big Night Out featuring the Beegees Tribute Band and Reoffender Covers Band. Tickets: 07875 986433.

  • Williton and District YFC stage their sponsored Bike Ride over the Quantock Hills in aid of the RNLI on 31 August.

  • Visit the YFC tent at the Dunster Show on 21 August.

Latest from the Somerset Life