YFCU participates in inaugural Five Nations conference hosted by Scottish Association of Young Farmers’ Clubs

The Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster (YFCU) were thrilled to take part in the inaugural Five Nations Conference, which was hosted by the Scottish Association of Young Farmers’ Clubs (SAYFC), and held from October 18th to October 22nd, 2023, in Gorebridge, Scotland.
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The conference aimed to foster positive interaction, cooperation, and personal development among attendees, all centred around the theme of 'Rural Leadership'.

The YFCU sent a dedicated team of six delegates to participate in this enriching event: Richard Beattie, YFCU deputy president, Matthew Wilson, Cappagh YFC, Glyn Surgenor, Hillsborough YFC, Catherine Minford, Lylehill YFC, Jason Sproule, Cappagh YFC and Ruth Megahey , YFCU's assistant manager, business services.

The conference featured an impressive line-up of speakers and activities throughout its duration. The first day's highlight was a talk by Sarah Millar, CEO of Quality Meat Scotland (QMS). Sarah shared her experiences and insights from recent global market discussions, emphasising the importance of high standards in the UK compared to other nations.

Participants at the Five Nations Conference 2023. Picture: YFCUParticipants at the Five Nations Conference 2023. Picture: YFCU
Participants at the Five Nations Conference 2023. Picture: YFCU

She also discussed the implications of these standards on market costs and engaged attendees in a Q&A session covering topics such as future farming issues, Brexit's impact on the UK (particularly Northern Ireland), and advice for emerging female leaders.

Day two featured engaging sessions, including Alan Ross, who spoke about understanding personality profiles and how individuals can analyse their own personalities, those of others, and how best they can collaborate effectively. Alan also delved into key leadership principles, and shared his personal experiences in business.

Following Alan, Finlay Carson, Member of the Scottish Parliament, shared his personal journey through SAYFC and the agricultural industry and transitioning into politics. He discussed seizing opportunities and provided insights into recent legislative changes and the setup of the Scottish Parliament.

The day culminated with a visit to Craigies Farm Shop for a farm tour and a traditional Burns Supper, along with a Cultural Showcase where each team shared elements of their home country or organisation.

Participants at the Pawmill dog park, part of Millmaw farm with David Black, farm owner. Picture: YFCUParticipants at the Pawmill dog park, part of Millmaw farm with David Black, farm owner. Picture: YFCU
Participants at the Pawmill dog park, part of Millmaw farm with David Black, farm owner. Picture: YFCU

Day three included a visit to Millmaw Farm, where the Black family shared their farm's history and their shift towards treating their farm as a business while embracing sustainability and self-sufficiency.

Attendees also learnt about their plans for diversification into renewable energy and enjoyed a lunch hosted by the family.

The day continued with visits to the Kilted Christmas Tree Farm to learn about their history of being a new entrant to farming and Cuthill Towers Dairy Farm with the Laurie family, followed by an evening of dinner and team games.

Day four began with a talk from Jim Montgomery, former SAYFC member and chair of the West Region, who currently works with Morgan Stanley, a US investment bank.

Mr Montgomery shared insights into leadership, its significance, preparation, skills, and intent-based leadership. Attendees engaged in an open discussion on the challenges they face in their roles and organisations.

The conference wrapped up with an Edinburgh tourist day, where SAYFC members led a walking tour around the city, showcasing the sites and sharing its history.

The final evening was a memorable ceilidh dance in Edinburgh, bringing everyone together to enjoy a cultural experience.

Richard Beattie, vice president for Young Farmers Clubs’ of Ulster remarked: “ The Five Nations Conference has been a tremendous success and could not have happened without the perseverance and commitment from all nations involved to organise the event.

“SAYFC have set the bar high and already preparations are underway for the 2024 conference and we hope to emulate the fun and learning we had in Scotland.”

The YFCU team is grateful for the opportunity to participate in the Five Nations Conference and looks forward to applying the knowledge and experiences gained to further enhance rural leadership and cooperation in their communities and hosting the conference in 2024.