Devon LivingIssue #04
Heart of the community
We catch up with Nick Creasy, Operations Manager for the Devon Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs to find out more about this inspiring organisation.
One of the major attractions of Devon is its great swathes of countryside, from green rolling hills and rugged moorland to farm fields. Yet its the rural communities that inhabit this verdant landscape that are its beating heart. Since the 1920s, an organisation has been helping these communities to develop and thrive – the Young Farmers’ Club.
“Witnessing young people achieve and reach their potential is an amazing feeling!”
The organisation’s mission is to advance the education of young people in agriculture, home crafts, country life, and related subjects. But, as we discover, it is so much more than that. It is a fundamental part of the infrastructure that underpins Devon’s rural communities – giving young members advice and support; equipping them with the tools they need to succeed in life. They also have some fun too!
We catch up Nick Creasy, Operations Manager for the Devon Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs (DFYFC), who lives in a village just outside Exeter with his wife Alison, and their two daughters, Hollie and Jessica. Nick moved to Devon around 25 years ago, initially to work in outdoor education with young people on Dartmoor and the coast, before joining DFYFC in 2004.
As Nick tells us, DFYFC has around 1600 members in Devon across 38 clubs, each ranging from around 20 to over 100 members, aged 10 to 26. The county boasts one of the largest membership uptakes, typically in the top three alongside Yorkshire and Cumbria. 65% of the membership are still directly involved in farming, with the remainder coming from a range of industries from teachers to hairdressers – though many come from traditional farming families, even if they have taken different a path.
DFYFC organises a range of activities, including competitions, sporting events and charity work. It also arranges travelling scholarships and an exchange programme with equivalent likeminded organisations globally, to everywhere from Germany to Russia; New Zealand to the USA. Members get to encounter other cultures, learning and sharing agricultural and business ideas and practices that they can put to use back home, gaining crucial life experience which will help them in their careers and development.
A huge part of DFYFC’s outreach is its fundraising activity. “Over the last four to five years,” Nick explains, “we have averaged over £100,000 per year through fundraising, to various organisations, locally and nationally, from Devon Air Ambulance to Cancer Research UK.”
Nick himself is no stranger to fundraising, having undertaken a mammoth 48-hour, 250-mile Triathlon challenge in 2016, ‘Devon Revolution’, taking in five miles of swimming and 215 miles of cycling, all capped off with a 30-mile run. He raised over £10,000 for the Devon Rural Hub, an initiative set up by DFYFC to help safe-guard its future through becoming less dependent upon outside funding. Together they raised £600,000 in three years to buy and renovate their own building, which also serves the wider community with meeting rooms and office space for other ventures. DFYFC moved into the building in December 2016, with an official opening by HRH Prince Charles.
So what are Nick’s key drivers? “The enthusiasm that young people bring to the organisation. Witnessing young people achieve and reach their potential – seeing their confidence grow – is a real pleasure and honour… it’s an amazing feeling! Because there are strong communities behind the young farmers, in effect this trebles our wider network, in terms of support from the wider public.” For Nick, an organisation that brings people together to share, collaborate, have fun and develop, addressing everything from business plans to mental health, is crucial. Working with partners such as FCN (Farming Community Network), these organisations serve largely as the county’s backbone. Indeed, many ex-Young Farmers’ Club members go on to serve the wider community in later life in various administrative roles. “It may sound like a cliche, but you really do get out of it what you put into it. The rewards, on a personal level, are huge!”
As Nick concludes, this stuff really matters: “Rural community is so important to Devon, in terms of its aesthetic, its culture, industry and its tourism. We shouldn’t underestimate the importance of the drive and skill of young farmers in making Devon a prosperous, exciting and dynamic place to live.”
Amory Building, Cheriton Bishop,
Exeter EX6 6JH
"Witnessing young people achieve and reach their potential is an amazing feeling!"