Last week I was pleased to join Shropshire Federation of Young Farmers Clubs (SFYFC) at their annual Chairman's Charity Concert, this year held at Cleobury North. This was a special occasion, as it included the official presentation, by HM Lord Lieutenant of Shropshire, of the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service, accepted on behalf of SFSYC by this year's Chair Rebecca Green.
The Queen's Award for Voluntary Service is the highest award given to local volunteer groups across the UK, and recognises outstanding work in the community. SFYFC were nominated by last year's High Sheriff of Shropshire, Christine Holmes, who was impressed by their work to build inclusion and confidence for young people in isolated rural communities.
I have always been impressed by Young Farmers, and congratulate all those who helped SFYFC receive this remarkable and well-deserved recognition for their voluntary work. I believe it is one of only two such awards ever given to Young Farmers.
Shropshire Federation of Young Farmers Clubs has 18 clubs (of which half are based in the Ludlow Constituency) with around 1,000 members across Shropshire, aged 10 to 26, so this award really is a reflection of a concerted county-wide effort to make a positive difference to young people in the heart of our rural communities.
Following formal presentation of the award, we watched the Chairman's Concert, at which 20 highly entertaining skits, songs and dance routines from around the world were performed in front of a packed marquee with 600 people. The concert raised funds for charities Oak Farm in Ditton Priors (for adults with learning difficulties), Midlands Air Ambulance and Breast Cancer Care.
Shropshire YFC has raised over £125,000 in recent years for charity - entirely through their own efforts, showing the real impact young people across Shropshire can have in their community by working together with a common purpose and sense of fun.
On Bank Holiday Saturday, SFYFC held their Chairman's Ball on the same site, attracting over 2,000 members and friends of young farmers from Shropshire and beyond. This party is expected to have raised £40,000, through sponsorship and ticket sales, to help fund YFC activities throughout the year.
Shropshire Young Farmers is a great example of how young people - who do not have to be involved in farming, just appreciate rural life and enjoy the countryside - can work well with each other to have fun, develop their own skills and build confidence in interacting across a wide age range. More information for young people or parents, including a list of local clubs, can be found online at www.sfyfc.org.uk.