AS NFYFC refocuses the year ahead on all things education, Lauren Dean catches up with its new chairman Lynsey Martin.
ON first speaking with Lynsey Martin it is clear to see why she was elected as the newest National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs (NFYFC) chairman in February.
She has the drive, determination and passion – not to mention the personality – to lead one of the UK’s largest rural youth organisations, and this year she is keen to push the boundaries on education stereotypes.
As a self-professed grammar girl who grew up in the knowledge of agricultural shows and crop harvesting, Lynsey says her plans to focus on the breadth of career opportunities in the farming sector spiralled from a first-hand experience at school, where she was repeatedly told a career in agriculture was not ‘academic enough’.
“I always thought to myself they do not have the knowledge of agriculture to be able to tell me that,” she says.
“I think there are some really relatable and achievable things for those at secondary school age to engage with, challenging the stereotypes that all farmers do is sit on tractors and feed cows.”
Growing up, Lynsey was always exposed to agriculture as both her parents were involved in the industry. But it was only after missing her top choice at university to study veterinary science that her fall-back to study agricultural animal science at Harper Adams became the stepping stone to where she is today.
Her father is the acting fieldsman at Rugby Farmers Mart while her mother’s brother farms about 80 hectares (200 acres) of licensed crop.
Lynsey uses bits of permanent pasture from the farm to run her own pedigree Dexter herd and growing pedigree Texel flock.
“It is a bit of a jack of all trades, master of none situation,” she says.
“Going to Harper was a bit of a happy accident and it meant I got to go away and learn a lot about myself.
“When I graduated I went self-employed with local livestock work where I tried a bit of everything. And while I have been away with NFYFC, hopefully my clients have not filled my regular jobs with someone better.”
Alongside her livestock work, Lynsey is keen on the showing side of things after ditching school summer holidays for time spent in the showring with her parents.
With expertise in prepping livestock to be showring-ready, including trimming beef cows, Lynsey says her one-day dream is to be able to show her own stock.
“I love showing, but hopefully I will be taking my own stock in the near future. I do not want to take anything out I have not bred myself because this is half the fun for me.”
A competitive nature is something Lynsey has always prided herself on, but having parents who judged the local YFC competitions meant she did not join up to her local group, Ashford and District YFC, Kent, until her first year of university, when she was 18.
“We had an unwritten rule none of the family members would be able to compete when our parents were judging, so I never really got into YFC.
“Obviously I went away to university and a lot of my friends there were Young Farmers.
“I came back and said I wanted to do something about joining back home. I went to my first meeting during the Easter holidays of my first year and never looked back.”
Lynsey is a give-it-all-she-has type leader. Listening to her bubbly and charismatic storytelling, she sets the scene of how she made it to the top spot of NFYFC by ‘not being able to keep [my] mouth shut’.
According to the chairman, she started off in her local club ‘just like anybody else’ but was voluntarily helping out on the committee at the weekly meetings.
“The mantra is to say yes and figure out the details later,” she says. “I was quite old when I joined YFC so a lot of my friends were telling me the only way forward is by saying yes.
“After moving back home from university I was quickly asked to move into a country position because I am gobby and cannot sit on my hands. I never thought back then I would get involved in a national position.”
She says her obvious keenness also helped but, looking back, the best advice she can offer is to say yes to all opportunities.
Lynsey says: “I did not realise the animal NFYFC was.
“All the stuff I would never have done in any life if I had never put my big boy pants on and worked out the details later. I am a huge fan of getting stuck in.”
Getting stuck in is something Lynsey wants to encourage other youngsters to do when it comes to farming and is something she is setting her sights on for the year ahead.
As part of her year in office, she is working towards the launch of a specialised education package which she says will be her ‘biggest achievement yet’.
Teaming up with Farming and Countryside Education (FACE), the project will kick off in June this year.
She says the NFYFC module Train the Trainer is already a huge help in advocating the opportunities in agriculture, but for a lot of the younger members, many of who she suspects have never seen farm animals before, Lynsey is keen on working with them and getting them immersed in the industry.
“It is aimed at those in Year 9 and opening their eyes to agriculture as an opportunity for the future,” Lynsey says.
“We are going in with FACE to secondary schools because there is a lot of great stuff out there already for primary schools and younger children.
“Young Farmers are really relatable to secondary school kids as they are all quite close in age.
“It is also hoping to put agriculture in a global context as a lot of people, when they think of food and farming, have a very stereotypical view of farming.”
“For me, being at school and being told agriculture was not a viable career, everything I have done has proved to me we have to do something to change this perception.”
Name: Lynsey Martin
Local club: Ashford and District Young Farmers, Kent
One thing I love about my club: We still have eight school-based clubs in the county and I am really pleased to see people in these schools get a real taste for farming and be fully emerged in the industry
Biggest achievement: Getting the role as NFYFC chairman. It is kind of an umbrella for quite a lot of others. While I was agri-chairman I had quite a lot of meetings with Ministers and was very proud of our movement. But the launch of the education package will be my biggest achievement yet. I take a lot of pride through coaching members and seeing what other people can achieve
Biggest regret: Not applying for YFC travel. Seize every opportunity
Plans going forward: Put NFYFC on an ever more sure footing and prove to the next group of Young Farmers coming through the opportunities to have the same crack of the whip as we do