After 14 years as a member of Moneymore YFC, Zita McNaugher was announced as president of the Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster (YFCU) and formally accepted the chain of office at the AGM and conference on Saturday, April 13, 2019.
During her time as a member Zita availed of every opportunity, and competed in almost every competition, including public speaking, group debating, stock judging and drama, all of which helped Zita to develop strong communication skills and improved her confidence vastly. Her personal favourite was public speaking which Zita excelled at, making the final every year and winning on a handful of occasions.
A self-professed shoe addict, Zita is a firm believer of “give a woman the right pair of shoes and she will conquer the world”, and Zita is certainly following this path. An ambitious young woman, Zita has held a number of positions at Moneymore YFC, including club leader, club secretary and club PRO, and at county level, county chairperson, county secretary and county PRO. She went on to be elected as a vice president in 2015, followed by deputy president in 2017.
Zita has enjoyed many memorable experiences over the years, including meeting Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, and Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex; as well as Mary McAleese when she was President of Ireland. She has also had the opportunity to perform at the Ulster Hall and Waterfront Hall as part of the arts festival gala.
But Zita describes her most notable moment being when she was elected vice president.
She said: “I think the most significant moment for me was being successful in being elected as vice president. I put my name in very last minute and there were six other nominations. The vote counting went on for what felt like days to be honest, but the overwhelming feeling of support when the result was announced was fantastic. I’ve been incredibly lucky to represent my club and county and the organisation.”
Zita thoroughly enjoyed her time as a young farmer, and felt so strongly about the value of the work that YFCU do that she felt compelled to become part of the presidential team in order to give back what she got out of the organisation.
She said: “I want to encourage members so that they can become better farmers, better countrymen and better citizens. I thoroughly enjoyed my time as deputy president as it gave me the opportunity to meet more members than I ever have met before. It also gave me a chance to chair the executive committee which is the YFCU board of directors. It was a challenge as the committee are very passionate members who want the best for the organisation.”
Zita announced her theme for the year after being announced as president – ‘Celebrating 90 years of Change and Challenge’.
She is asking Young Farmers’ Clubs to make a change to improve their club and also to take on a new challenge.
2019-2020 is the 90th anniversary of the YFCU.
As part of the celebrations they recently announced their partnership with the UK and Ireland’s biggest country dance – the Farmers Bash 2019.
Zita commented: “I’m really looking forward to celebrating 90 years of the organisation. We have achieved so much and I’m looking forward to the celebrations which include working alongside the Farmers Bash 2019 which takes place on October 11 in the SSE Arena, Belfast. We are also planning an anniversary dinner in March 2020 at Titanic Belfast. The organising committee have been busy planning the events and I’m looking forward to seeing everything coming together and getting a chance to celebrate.”
Zita’s passion for agriculture comes from growing up on a farm. Her dad has a beef and sheep farm with her brother and a livestock haulage business. Her mum has a free range egg business and also breeds Belted Galloway cattle.
Zita often helped to look after the animals from a very young age, describing herself as the “chief pet lamb feeder”.
A strong advocate for women in agriculture, Zita is very passionate about the role women play in farming life. Her mother was an inspiration to her growing up; proving that women can have very successful careers in agriculture while raising families.
The future of farming and agriculture is very positive, the agri-food industry is one of the largest in Northern Ireland and young farmers have a massive part to play in that.
Zita remarked: “Young people are vital to the agri-food industry. We need new ideas to keep the industry changing, evolving and improving. There is an appetite out there for careers in agri-food.”
Looking ahead; Zita is excited for the upcoming events. Next up on the YFCU event calendar is the Balmoral Show.
“It’s one of my favourite events. It’s a chance for us as an organisation to showcase why we are the largest rural youth organisation in Northern Ireland, and give people a flavour of our competitions, including sheep shearing, floral art, machinery handling, ladies football, and tug of war,” commented Zita.
Zita is keen to promote the good work of YFCU and increase membership.
With over 50 clubs and 3,000 members, YFCU is the largest rural youth organisation in Northern Ireland, and a very big part of rural life for young people.
Zita said: “Joining a young farmers’ club is the best decision I ever made! The scope of being involved is truly immense. Young people can join at the age of 12 and continue through until they are 30.
“During this time they will have the opportunity to meet like-minded people with a rural interest, develop new friendships, acquire new skills, secure valuable qualifications, and maybe even travel! And you don’t have to be a farmer to join us.”