Young farmers in Cornwall have welcomed their 1,000th recruit after a high-profile membership drive.

The Cornwall Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs (YFC) says the Project 1,000 campaign, sponsored by rural insurer NFU Mutual, has helped to reverse the decline in membership and they are now looking forward to that trend continuing.

Members came together to celebrate the milestone at Cornwall YFC’s annual County Rally on Saturday (July 23) and also coincided with the Federation’s 85th anniversary. It was a particularly appropriate venue as well, taking place at the family farm of current chairman Rachael Benney, in Carmenellis, near Redruth.

The rally is a major date on the Federation’s calendar with young farmers enjoying a packed schedule of activities and competitions including sheep dog trials, carriage racing and the ever-popular tug of war event.

Project 1,000 was originally launched by Cornwall YFC and NFU Mutual in 2018 to boost membership by 40 per cent from 715 members to 1,000 in 2020.

It followed four decades of falling numbers. While the project made a strong start, when the pandemic struck membership across young farmers clubs across the country dropped significantly and many events were cancelled or moved online. Undeterred, Cornwall YFC kept to its target but extended its deadline to build back its membership.

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Now, the team’s efforts have paid off and Cornwall YFC is supporting 20 clubs across the county, which are open to members aged 10 to 28.

Aspiring sheep farmer Finley Nancarrow, 16, became the 1,000th member when joining Probus Young Farmers Club. He says he is thrilled to be a part of the YFC’s success story.

Finley said: “Mum rang to tell me I was the 1,000th member. I was really surprised, and very happy. I am looking forward to all the social events now. I’d been a couple of times with friends and had wanted to join for ages, but because of Covid, I had to wait.”

A former schoolboy footballer with Plymouth Argyle, Finley had to give up thoughts of a professional career due to injury, but when he started helping out with his Uncle Chris Johns’ sheep, he soon found a new passion.

He’s been combining school studies with working at Trebelsue Farm, Newquay, home of the annual Boardmasters Festival. With school now finished, he is looking forward to beginning his farm worker apprenticeship there in September, while also studying at Cornwall College in Stoke Climsland.

Finley said: “Even though the apprenticeship hasn’t officially started yet, I will carry on working at the farm. I have been working with cows there and doing some tractor driving, but I really like working with the sheep. Maybe one day I will have my own sheep farm. That would be really good.”

The federation is delighted at the successful conclusion of Project 1,000.

Rachael Benney, Chairman of Cornwall Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs, said: “We continue to go from strength to strength and the success of the Project 1,000 campaign is testament to the value that all our members see in being part of what is a very special rural family.

“Running an agricultural business is hard work, but all our young members know there is support out there through a vibrant social network, which should help them look to the future with confidence. We also look forward to further growth of our membership base.”