Berkshire Young Farmers' Club

You don't have to be a farmer….. to belong to a Young Farmers' Club

NFYFC Exchange in 1966 to Junior Young Farmers of Ontario

It is fifty years ago-April 1966 that I was part of a team selected from NFYFC to visit Canada on the International Exchange Organisation. There were in fact 3 from England, 2 from Northern Ireland and 4 from Scotland.

It all started with County nominations, supported by Harry Cragg, who was the fantastic Berkshire County Organiser. Interviews at Gower Street, London, followed which was the YFC Head Quarters. Having been selected, I was awarded a Joseph Rank Sponsorship and a briefing session conducted by the ever-helpful legendary Barbara Tylden, who gave us an insight as to what was expected.

We left Liverpool Docks and collected the Scottish and Irish delegates at Greenock and we continued board the SS Carinthia (Cunard Line) for a 5-day Atlantic crossing. It was a marvellous way to get to know one another. On arrival, we were all split up as we all had different itineraries.

My first family, we normally had a one week stay, where we lived as family helping and attending Junior Farmers (JF) meetings. We were taken to places of interest and sporting events such as the Stanley Cup Final Ice Hockey Match same as the World Cup but there was never any news for us although the matches were on at the same time.

The farms were nearly all dairy farms, and they had just started maize growing for silage which was a new concept. A lot of Ontario was steep, poor land, all farmed with family labour and with very little hired help so it was seven days a week! Cold winters and dry hot summers created a very short growing season. Lucerne (Alfalfa) was grown for hay making for its resistant to drought. The cattle were mostly Canadian Holsteins or Guernsey. The calves from the Dairy units were reared and then sent to the large feed lots in Alberta. There were some feed lots in Ontario also. There were virtually no sheep as the winters were too severe but plenty of pigs and poultry all indoors. They were very dependable on the USA for trade.

Tobacco was a popular crop but needed good soil and irrigation. Arable cropping was limited to what was needed for the farm consumption with the barley rolled for the cattle, ground for the pigs and oats for the cattle and horses. The wheat growing was done on the prairies of Manitoba and Saskatewan and was a totally different type of agriculture.

My general impression in 1066 was that the farmers of Ontario were quite a long way behind British Agriculture in machinery and technology and general welfare. I wonder what it is like today? I have never returned to see.

Our commitment to the J. F. of Ontario was considerable. They always wanted to know how we compared. The 4H Clubs were strong and took a lot of the JF’s membership although they ran concurrently, the 4H being more project work.

We did many Radio interviews, talks to clubs with slides, I had over a 100 (how boring was that!)-even some local TV work. During our family stays we covered most of Ontario’s county’s where there were J.F. Clubs and were always shown great hospitality and friendship, some lasting to this day by way of correspondence, Christmas cards etc.

Junior Farmers recreation consisted mostly of meetings, formal or informal, dances and summer BBQ’s, “weaner roasts” (sausages) and “cruising the drag” – driving around the small town and village streets, as fuel was very cheap, just looking at life was a regular thing. There were NO pubs!

Liquor was very controlled – no drinking in public and women were not allowed in the liquor parlours, which were very seedy places. Another popular activity was lake swimming and picnics at the weekend. “Soft Ball” a type of baseball was played by men and women also. Ice Hockey was almost a winter “religion”

Camping and going to the lakeside houses and cabins in the summer was a very popular family activity.

After the official trip, we took the Canadian National Railway (CNR) from Toronto, no beds just seats-no money left! We went right across the Prairies (a very slow trip) with lots of stops each at least for half an hour. It was the Calgary Stampede for 4 days where we all stayed in a “Contacts” home F.O.C. – ate burgers and drank lager!

Banff next, in the Rocky Mountains for one day, then through the Rockies, down the Fraser Valley to Vancouver where it rained all the time. We went across to Vancouver Island by ferry and stayed in Victoria. We visited the famous Butchart Gardens and other places of interest. We then flew back to Montreal and back to the ship and home! August 1966 after we won the football World Cup!

So now fifty years on we are all re-uniting, no doubt to remember and talk about our experience of a lifetime brought about by being a member of the Young Farmers of the UK.

John Miller- Past member of Reading Young Farmers and Vice President of the County

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