A generation ago the recruitment slogan ‘young farmers do it in wellies’ was used to tempt youngsters to join the rural youth organisation.
Now, the marketing spiel is very much about not having to be a farmer to be a member of young farmers, with the organisation presenting a modern image for national Young Farmers Week, which runs until October 4th.
Step forward Stephen Jarmuz, 26, a recently elected vice chairman of the Yorkshire Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs. He started his working life as a sports therapist, specialising in helping injured cyclists, and now has a nine-to-five office job looking after contracts and relationships for the National Health Service.
All very collar-and-tie, but by night Stephen is one of the north’s most in-demand DJs and has brought a breath of fresh air and straight talking that has helped make sure that the county’s young farmers are being listened to on the national stage.
Stephen, who lives near Wetherby, has only been a member of his local Boroughbridge Young Farmers’ Club for four years so his rise to the higher echelons of the organisation is nothing short of meteoric. He’s now the club’s vice chairman, a district chairman and vice-chairman on the county stage.
“A friend got involved and it just sort of happened that I turned up,” remembers Stephen.
“It’s completely different for farming families; where it’s the done thing that when the kids turn ten they dump them on the doorstep of the local YFC club and pick them up two hours later.”
“I didn’t intend to get so involved, it was just something to do for one night a week but young farmers really is one of those organisations that you get out what you put in.
“It could potentially be daunting to turn up to a young farmers meeting. I imagined I’d stand out like a sore thumb, but YFC is genuinely the most welcoming and friendly organisation that exists. “Everybody’s young – it’s run for the members by the members – so I had something in common with everybody to start off with.
“I’ve learnt so many new skills such as public speaking. I already probably had the gift of the gab, but to learn how to stand up and argue the case for something properly is a really useful life skill. I recently went down to a national meeting and helped propose an amendment to a proposed levy increase and it was one of those pinch yourself moments.”
Although he doesn’t have a farming connection, Stephen grew up with a mother “madly into horses” and always enjoyed looking at the tractors and farm machinery at agricultural shows.
“I knew about young farmers,” he said. “But I would never have imagined myself actually joining.”
He started out as a DJ from the age of 16, doing friends parties locally and is now in demand across the north from Lincolnshire up to Scotland and has even done gigs in London and with Radio 1 big names such as Chris Stark.
“It’s a well-known fact that young farmers know how to party,” smiles Stephen, who now has two grey Fergie tractors and enjoys taking them to steam rallies and vintage fairs.
“I have just recently moved to my own house,” says Stephen. “But I had been living on a friend’s farm and helped out with quite a bit of tractor driving and at lambing time.
“I think what I’ve brought to the table, not having previously had any connection with farming, is to look at things through a fresh pair of eyes. To be aware of being inclusive.
“It’s a really key message that young people must not be put off joining young farmers if they are not from a farming family.”
Apart from a traditional break during the summer for harvest, the backbone of young farmers is weekly meetings. Programmes are usually very varied, from traditional farm talks and visits, to the more wacky and wonderful such as camel racing, pheasant plucking and pumpkin carving.
Charlotte Smith, presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today programme and Countryfile, is the president of the National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs.
There is a huge charity element to young farmers. A good example is the Knaresborough club, which has raised £44,000 for the Yorkshire Air Ambulance since 2012.
“Meeting new people, learning new skills and, most importantly, having a good time. What’s not to like …?” concludes Stephen.
Article by Sarah Todd featured in the Yorkshire Post on 28th September 2019