Young people are set to share their views on how the next generation feel about the future of agriculture at a fringe event at the Oxford Farming Conference (OFC) on January 2 at 4:00pm.

The closed session – 'Will there be a next generation?' – is being hosted by The National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs (NFYFC) and the Rural Youth Project.

Sponsored by Kuhn, the event will focus on the needs, challenges and aspirations of young farming and rural people.

The event comes off the back of a recent Rural Youth Project survey that found 72% of young people in rural areas feel optimistic about their future, despite the challenges of transport, access to services, employment and connectivity.

Facilitated by OFC director Matt Naylor, the session will involve young people sharing positive experiences of being involved in the industry.

There will also be an open debate to discuss the future opportunities and what the NFYFC and RYP are doing to encourage greater engagement from young people.

This will be the first time that NFYFC has hosted a fringe event at the OFC, despite YFC members always attending the event through scholarship places.

This year Amy Panton from Cumbria FYFC, who attended the Rural Youth Project Ideas Festival in 2018, and Lee Pritchard from Glamorgan FYFC are recipients of two YFC scholarship places through the Worshipful Company of Farmers. Both YFC members will also take part in the fringe event.

Colin Ferguson, a former member of the Scottish Association of Young Farmers’ Clubs and its AGRI and Rural Affairs group, will also take part in the fringe event. Colin, a dairy farmer from the west of Scotland and now part of Rural Youth Project, sits on the NFU Scotland Next Generation committee and is attending the OFC as an Emerging Leader.

'Lively debate'

NFYFC AGRI Steering Group chairman James Hutchinson, who is also a member of Wiltshire Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs, said: “This fringe event promises to be a lively debate about the future of young people in our farming and rural economies.

As well as research findings, we will hear from young people involved in the sector, who will share insights to the challenges they face and the aspirations they have.

Jane Craigie, co-founder of the Rural Youth Project, said: “The Rural Youth Project aims to support and galvanise young people aged 18-28 to create meaningful change in their rural communities by improving their leadership and enterprise skills.

“We kicked off the project by surveying over 750 young people and were really heartened to discover that 71% of young people living in rural locations feel optimistic about their future despite the trio of woe of poor connectivity, limited employment options and poor access to housing.

"We are currently planning the next two years of activities, which include leadership training, a series of learning journeys and multiple Ideas Festivals in the UK and further afield.”

Kate Bennett, Kuhn’s marketing and communications coordinator, said: "This session promises to be a highlight at one of the most respected conferences of the year as young farmers will share their experiences and challenges of trying to forge a career in the industry today."

The Fringe Event will take place from 4:00pm on Wednesday, January 2, 2019, in Room 11 at the Oxford Farming Conference.