Farming News - Young farmers' club membership halves in Wales
Young farmers' club membership halves in Wales
Welsh young farmers' clubs (YFCs) have seen their membership halve during a "tough" year, with the pandemic challenging the way they usually run.
Wales YFC has just over 4,000 members in a typical year - but that fell to just over 2,000 in 2020-2021.
Chair Katie Davies said it was a worry but she believed clubs had a positive future with more members starting to return as Covid rules were eased.
The organisation hopes to hold more face-to-face events this summer.
In a normal year the Royal Welsh showground in Llanelwedd, Powys, would be full of farmers of all ages.
For young farmers in particular it would be the pinnacle of the competition calendar.
But this year, like last, there are no competitions on the showgroubd as the coronavirus pandemic has put a stop to the YFC's face-to-face competitions.
"It's been a very difficult year for us," Ms Davies told BBC Radio Cymru's Dros Frecwast programme.
"Doing everything over Zoom and not face-to-face, that's tough for our members, not to be able to see anyone.
"It's a shock, and it does make us worry for the future of the organisation.
"But, at the same time, it isn't a big shock because it's been such a different year, and not everyone wants to do something over Zoom."
One of those who did not rejoin during the past year was 22-year-old Chloe Jones.
She is usually a member of Pontsian YFC in Ceredigion, but works in Cardiff, and would travel back to compete. But Covid made her rethink last year.
"I originally joined when I was in Year 8, and I've competed in many competitions and love being a part of the club," she said.
"This year I had considered joining because I want to support the club and want to be part of the competitions.But Covid came, and I wasn't going to get the same experiences as usual.
"For me, being part of the competitions and meeting weekly, that's what YFC is, I enjoy the socialising. I would consider rejoining this year coming.
I want to be a part of the YFC until I'm too old to do so because I really enjoy everything about it.
"Even if I do live in Cardiff, I still want to join and support the club."
Like many organisations, the YFCs turned to the virtual world to hold many of their events and competitions.
That was not practical for every event - and not to everyone's taste, especially those who would prefer to meet face-to-face.
But it has offered opportunities to people like 24-year-old Sioned Fflur Evans, a member of Llanwenog YFC, Ceredigion, but has been living in Birmingham and Bristol for the past two years.
"This year, when the competition was online or on Zoom, it made it much easier for me to compete as I could log on from Birmingham," she said.
The challenge for the clubs in Wales is encouraging those who have left to rejoin - for social reasons, but also for the sake of the organisation's finances.
Last year BBC Radio Cymru found the organisation was facing potential losses of £140,000.
But Ms Davies believes most members will rejoin after a year's break.
"We are positive about the future of the YFC because counties are meeting and clubs are meeting face-to-face," she said.
"With that we're seeing more members coming back.
"Looking forward, if the restrictions are relaxed again in August we'll see more members returning in September when the new YFC year starts."