Chief Whip Mark Spencer has applauded the work of Young Farmers’ Clubs and stated their importance in rural communities in an exclusive interview for National Young Farmers’ Week 2019 (30 Sept-4 Oct), which is supported by NatWest.
It has been 20 years since Mr Spencer was the Chairman of The National Federation of Young Farmers Club’s (NFYFC) after which he embarked on a career in politics.
After recently being promoted to the high profile position of Chief Whip, he agreed to share his views on the Federation with current Vice Chairman Dewi Parry from Clwyd Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs in his office in the Houses of Parliament.
Mr Spencer, whose constituency is Sherwood, Nottinghamshire, was clear about the role NFYFC had played in his own personal and professional development as well as its part in developing rural young people today.
“I think they’re absolutely fundamental,” said Mr Spencer when asked about the role of YFCs in rural communities. “Young people need somewhere to go, social activities to enjoy, the ability to network and socialise with each other. Young Farmers is the perfect platform to do that in a safe environment, in a structured way. It gets you out having fun, it gets you meeting people and socialising.”
As Chief Whip, Mr Spencer described his office as the “grease that makes parliament work”. His promotion comes at a critical time for the country – and he said that serving as NFYFC National Chairman gave him valuable experience in dealing with difficult situations.
“It was a great experience and something that has prepared me for the bumpy ride that the nation is feeling at this moment in time. It’s one of the best roles I’ve ever done in my life,” said Mr Spencer.
The interview was recorded as a special message for YFC members to be released during National Young Farmers’ Week to demonstrate how YFC develops skills and influences careers.
This will be the fifth National Young Farmers’ Week and the aim of the week is to promote YFCs to more rural young people so they are aware of the benefits the clubs can offer them by providing an active social network and developing skills.
There are around 22,000 members of NFYFC, aged 10-26, who are all offered opportunities to take on roles in their YFCs as well as get involved in the organisation at a County, Area and national level.
The skills developed through NFYFC’s competitions, training, travel and agricultural activities are what inspired Mr Spencer’s political career – and moved him away from full-time farming.
“I still think of myself as a farmer, although I don’t get a lot of time to do that, but I think Young Farmers pulled me into politics slowly,” said Mr Spencer. “You sort of get drawn into young people’s issues, whether that is housing, rural transport, the issues around access into agriculture, succession planning… so you find yourself moving from thinking about rugby and socialising and drawn into those small ‘p’ political issues.”
During the interview, Mr Spencer also shared a message of support for National Young Farmers’ Week and urged future chairmen to “make sure you leave YFC there for future generations”.
National Young Farmers’ Week runs from 30 September to 4 October and is sponsored by NatWest.
Ian Burrow, Head of Agriculture at NatWest and The Royal Bank of Scotland, said: “It’s vital that we continue to develop and support young farmers which is why we are proud to back this year’s National Young Farmers’ Week through our established partnership with the National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs.
“Every time I interact and work with Young Farmers, they never cease to amaze me with their innovation, determination and adaptability in the face of any challenging issue. We want to equip those that are just beginning their farming journeys with the right skills, tools and networks to succeed.”