For the first time in its history, the Went Valley district Young Farmers’ Club (YFC) winter rally did not go ahead.
Instead, members donned waterproofs and shifted over 60 tonnes of rubbish to help the flood-stricken residents of Fishlake. Sarah Todd reports.
Lewis Marshall, chairman of the Went Valley district of young farmers, which is made up of clubs in Doncaster, Pontefract and Selby, says the suffering of local residents has made it impossible to continue with the day of competitions and fun.
“What we’ve got is plenty of vehicles and trailers and strong young people,” says Lewis, whose mum cooked breakfast for the helpers in Sykehouse Village Hall, which had already been booked for the cancelled rally.
“We aren’t the biggest of clubs but there were about 35 of us and we split into groups, going around collecting rubbish to fill multiple 14-ton skips and 15-ton bin lorries.
“We’d all seen the pictures on the news, but until you are actually there in real-life you have no idea of the devastation. There were fridges in fields, cars in ditches. It was very humbling to feel we’d made a difference. Facebook has been full of residents thanking us and the council has gone from being wary of us arriving to so grateful for all that we got done and the money we will have saved them.”
The young farmers’ efforts were featured on local ITV television news programme Calendar. Several businesses made donations of cleaning equipment, food and drinks, including workwear company Arco which gave full protective equipment kits of body suits, goggles and gloves.
Lewis added that a few of his young farmer members have been affected by the flooding. His family farm is about four miles away from Fishlake.
He says: “As farmers, we notice the Environment Agency failing to perform basic watercourse maintenance. Or if work is done, it follows European directives which have shifted away from dredging towards being more bothered about ecological status.
“Even some of our youngest members could talk knowledgeably about the importance of keeping ditches clear and dredging rivers. It’s infuriating that nobody listens to all the years of experience farmers have.”
Georgina Fort, chairman of Yorkshire Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs, added her praise.
“We were all devastated to see on the news the damage the rainfall has done to South Yorkshire,” she says.
“Farming has been hit hard by the weather once again.
“In true farming spirit the area is pulling together, and it is tremendous to see that YFC members put others first and cancelled plans for their winter rally and got together to help those that needed help.”
Young farmers also won national praise earlier in the year when they helped with the clear-up after the floods in the Yorkshire Dales.