'We can't function without you' - Young farmers' plea as membership halves
- Credit: Jane de Feyter
Norfolk's cash-strapped Young Farmers' Clubs (YFCs) have appealed for more support after the county's membership numbers slumped by half during the coronavirus lockdowns.
The pandemic has had a significant impact on the activities and fundraising of the organisation which hosts training, competitions, meetings and social events for its members.
Norfolk YFC chairman Will de Feyter, who farms at East Ruston, near North Walsham, said the county usually has around 350 senior members, but less than half have renewed their subscription this year.
Although many of the 11 Norfolk clubs have developed online meetings and had offered to subsidise the £60 annual fee for the YFC year starting September 2020, he said the loss of physical sports and social interaction had taken its toll.
But with the Covid-19 vaccination programme finally offering a "roadmap" back to normality, he said it was vital that members returned to the fold to keep the clubs afloat.
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"My message is: keep with us, because without you we couldn't function," he said. "Without the members there is no Young Farmers Club.
"Once things open up we hope to go back to our normal activities and normal business should resume.
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"Some clubs have been very clever and have had good speakers coming in on a virtual platform, but it is not the same. People are sick and tired of doing stuff online.
"Clubs need a minimum of six members to function in line with the constitution, so if they have not got six members they have to fold.
"Thankfully all our senior clubs have a good core who have signed up. So constitutionally we are safe, but if you only have six or 10 members it becomes more difficult to hire a venue for competitions or to attract good speakers.
"In terms of funding our revenue is seriously down, because a lot of the charities who support us have been hit hard and are struggling too.
"For anyone sitting on the fence, I would say think about what you have gained. The friendship, the training opportunities, learning new skills and building new memories with all the fun and daft things you do at Young Farmers. We want to keep all that going."
Norfolk YFC's junior Countrysiders branch has not been running during the lockdown, but Mr de Feyter said there were plans to develop an online platform for these clubs.