Take part and get involved: that was the message given to members of Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster at County Down Committee’s annual dinner dance and awards night.
Former YFCU president Martyn Blair told the audience of almost 300 members at La Mon Country House and Hotel: “Reap the benefits of Young Farmers or miss out.”
He said: “I for one will be proud to tell my son that I was a young farmer and tell him about all my achievements in YFCU. Go out and make the most of the opportunities you have.”
However, the former president’s speech also had a deeper message, Mr Blair urged members not only to get involved in Young Farmers, but to try and make a difference in their organisation.
He added: “If you are a member here tonight without ambitions to improve your club, I’m sorry to tell you but you are not a true Young Farmer. Be proud that you are all fellow members of the greatest youth organisation in existence.”
The sentiment was echoed by past County Down chairman David Dunlop who added: “They tell you ‘once a Young Farmer, always a Young Farmer’ and it couldn’t be more true.
“I still enjoy telling everyone I’m a Young Farmer.”
Mr Dunlop told members how he had been impressed by the standard of the county’s 12-14 public speaking heat, where he took the role of judge.
“Anyone doing public speaking at that age you have to take your hat off to them,” he continued.
“If you start at 12, by the time you are 25 you will be pretty good at it.”
YFCU deputy president Robert Simmons congratulated members on an increase in the level of participation in YFCU competitions throughout the county.
The top accolades on the night were awarded to Spa YFC which was named best senior club and Ballywalter YFC which was named best junior club.
Other points of celebration was the formation of Mourne YFC as well as the re-launch of Artana YFC and Burren, Mayobridge, Warrenpoint and Rostrevor (BMWR) YFC.
Additionally, this year the county committee decided to nominate a club support officer for the first time.
The new role, which was part funded by Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster headquarters and the county committee was designed to safeguard the future of clubs which were going through a difficult period or in need of additional support.
The role will be taken on by Victoria Simpson, a past county chairperson and member of Rathfriland Young Farmers’ Club.