County Chairmans Report
It is with great pleasure that I can tell you about all the achievements and proud moments I have had having been Berkshire’s county chairman for the past year. I am not going to lie at times it has been a struggle and it has certainly been a learning curve getting to grips with the running of the county and keeping all the clubs happy.
I am going to mention first about competitions. Without a competitions secretary the comps this year have been organised by Georgie and myself. Berkshire prides itself on the fact that we compete in a varied competitions programme and do not just stick to one area which is what some clubs and counties do. Firstly we had the public speaking competitions and these were well attended. At our county round we had junior reading teams, a junior public speaking team along with junior and senior member of the year competitors. The Shefford Reading team who came first, then went on to win at SEA, reading an extract from Lord of the Rings, qualifying them to compete at National level. Although not placed at National it was a great experience for them and they certainly picked up some tips for next year. Jess Elliman won at SEA in Junior member of the year and went on to compete at National. Although not placed in the top three she should be really proud of herself for getting that far and is certainly a great ambassador for all our junior members.
We also competed in the spring competitions at Sparsholt. Berkshire had an Ultimate Frisbee team and a Volleyball team. All members had a great day and it was fun to play against members from other counties.
We have also had successes in the stock judging this year. Members not only competed in pre-show but also the South of England Show and the Royal County of Berkshire Show with some fantastic results. We have had new members taking part for the first time and also older members that are now more confident and willing to help the younger ones by sharing their knowledge, which really shows the advantage of our 10-26 year old age group.
We have also had a member compete in the National Floral Art. Again all great achievements from such a small county.
Although these are all fantastic results for Berkshire and we clearly have a lot of talented members we have this year seen a decline in competition entries. Georgie and I are trying our best to represent the members and make the competitions happen however it is very disheartening when things have to be cancelled due to lack of entries. Just last week we had to cancel the annual quiz for the second year in a row. Georgie and I will be revisiting clubs to get an idea of what members want and when they want them as competitions are a huge part of YFC and it is a shame when members do not take part. I know life is busy and not everyone can always attend but we need to come up with a solution before these competitions are lost from Berkshire YFCs calendar.
Moving on to the country fayre. Wow what a day and forgetting all the stresses before and the panic in the lead up to it a huge thank you needs to go to Lydia, Georgie and the country fayre committee. Not only was the show was in a stunning location but the sun shone, Berkshire YFC was showcased to the public and the show broke its fundraising record. The exhibition tent looked great, yfc competitions ran in the ring all day and the floats the clubs had made were excellent. Some of the highlights of the day included; Chris Manley chairman of NFYFC coming to visit and even taking part In the tug of war, the girls Vs boys challenge (girls changing a tyre on a car whilst boys changed nappies), the round bale push, the soggy welly race and the bricklaying to name just a few. I think anyone who went would agree it was a fantastic day so thank you to everybody who made it happen, I know that it really is a team effort.
Senior meetings have continued to happen this year which I think is a really good thing for us as a county. It offers a good chance for the over 18 members to all get together and form lifelong friendships. Ellie Bunn was the social chairman and she did a good job of getting everyone organised. Members attended the NFYFC ski trip in Les Arcs, enjoyed a visit to Newbury races, had an evening at a trampoline park, supported balls in other counties and enjoyed bowling in Thatcham.
The seniors once again went to the NFYFC in Blackpool where everyone had a great weekend catching up with different friends, drinking and watching the finals of the competitions. The National AGM is always a good meeting to go to on the Sunday and this year was no different. There was a roundup of the NFYFC year and a debate on the levy rise. After a few key speeches this was passed. One of the things that I wanted to get involved with this year as chairman was NFYFC week. This is the second year they have run it so I wanted Berkshire to be involved. NFYFC run this week to try and promote Young Farmers across the country and the aim is to raise membership by 10%. Berkshire had an activity running every night that week and encouraged members to come along to bring a friend with them. Bowling on the Monday was a huge success with over 45 people coming along and 4 potential new members, Tuesday members learnt a new skill which was corn dollies and cake stock judging. Although this one was not as well attended everyone who came had a great time and went away with a new skill. Wednesday the clubs stuck to their usual meetings. Newbury and Shefford had a walk and tour of Newbury Racecourse and Bradfield learnt the ins and out of hot air ballooning. The Thursday was a quiz with members competing in teams and then coming up with lots of new ideas for meetings and the Friday was a farm walk and talk at Rushall Farm. The week ended with harvest festival on the Sunday in the Black Barns at Rushall Farm. All clubs were represented and we took an active role in the service with members doing speeches and donating tinned goods to charity. Berkshire also gained lots of views on social media. We now have a very active Berkshire Facebook and Twitter page. National YFC posted some of our updates throughout the week and one of our members was chosen to be a blogger for National that week. This year was a great success and I know clubs have gained membership through it.
Very early on when I took over as county chairman we had a meeting with Reading Young Farmers and it was decided that Reading was to close. Although the meeting was hard for myself, Lydia and Georgie to attend I feel that this was the best decision for the club at the time. There was not the senior support there to run the club and the few members remaining felt they wanted to be members rather than taking on the responsibility of the day to day running of the club. Although not officially closed yet we hope this can be completed in the coming months.
On the flip side of this Windsor and Maidenhead are set to open officially as a new club in the next few months. They might even be set up when the yearbook goes out! They have had three official meetings so far to gauge interest and at their first meeting they had in excess of 25 people turn up. With the help of Colin Raynor and Berkshire College of Agriculture I think that it has the potential to be a very successful club. Georgie and I will continue to support them and hopefully they will have an AGM soon to put the formalities in place.
Berkshire YFC have been active within the county with the aim of promoting us and gaining some new members. We had our annual stand at the Royal County of Berkshire Show. Clubs manned the stand and spoke to potential new members about the clubs, members of the public could have a go on a mini digger that was set up and we had a wheel barrow raffle. The raffle was something that was suggested by my vice chairman, Carrie as she had seen it being successful at another event. It was decide that any money raised would go to 2 local charities.
Lydia our president chose Swings and Smiles which provide play equipment for disabled children and the shows president chose the Newbury Hospital League of Friends which helps patients and their families when in hospital. We had no idea what to expect but I think we were all surprised when we raised £508. This mean that we could give £254 to each charity. We had a really good write up in the paper the following week all about Berkshire YFC and the following week another good write up about the money we raised for the charities. We have also been to the NADAS ploughing match where we won best trade stand, the Autumn day in Thatcham and Georgie and I went and gave a speech to a local community group who knew nothing of young farmers. All this is great publicity and hopefully we will gain some members out of doing these events.
The past year has certainly been very busy and next year looks set to be no different. Competitions have already started, the ski trip to Val Thoren has been booked, the hotel for the Torquay AGM has been booked and county camp is being planned. In November we had 8 members gave blood as part of Chris Manleys Lifeblood campaign and I know a few more have signed up for donations a few weeks later. From such a small county this is really fantastic. A few of the girls who donated made a video to send to NFYFC. To date this has had 4.3k views so we are really putting Berkshire YFC on the map.
I would now just like to say a few thank yous; firstly I would like to thank all the parents and club leaders who support the members in all the activities and competitions they wish to take part in and to all the places that you have to drive them to.
I would also like to say thank you to my officer team who certainly have helped me out and hopefully will continue to do so.
I would also like to say a huge thank you to Georgie. Although Georgie is contracted to do a certain amount of hours a week in the office, I have now seen first-hand how many hours she actually does and how she goes above and beyond to support our clubs and their members. She is always at the end of the phone and I feel we have become a great team this year. I certainly feel like I have learnt so much over the year and I would like to end this report by saying a massive thank you to all the members who make up Berkshire Young Farmers. Without you there would not be any clubs and I would not be standing here today as proud as I am of all your achievements over the year.
Katherine Bunn- County Chairman