‘Pinch-Me’ moment for NFYFC Chair Rosie Bennett
May 30, 2023 • General
Walking through the black door of 10 Downing Street was a ‘pinch-me’ moment for NFYFC Chair Rosie Bennett when she joined the Government’s recent Farm to Fork Summit. Rosie shares her experience.
Was I really standing outside number 10 Downing Street? It was a surreal moment when that historic black door swung open, and I stepped inside.
I had been invited to be part of the Government’s much-publicised Farm to Fork Summit to represent young farmers’ voices. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Thérèse Coffey held the event to meet representatives from the whole UK supply chain to discuss how industry and Government could work together to support a thriving UK food industry. Credit must be given to the NFU for campaigning for this event to happen.
Other than Kaleb Cooper (from Clarkson's Farm), I was one of the youngest delegates. I felt a sense of duty to represent young farmers well.
It was like walking through passport control to access the building, which was much smaller than I imagined – both inside and out.
Proceedings started in the gardens where food stands shared British food and drink and technical innovation, and we mingled with some big industry names. It was impressive that NFYFC was among those organisations represented – the only youth group present.
Kaleb received a lot of attention. He has such a great opportunity to promote British farming – something that was evident from the Kaleb-dominated media coverage following the Summit.
After an impassioned speech from the Prime Minister about his commitment to food security, I felt more confident that the NFU’s long-campaigned-for Summit represented a positive move towards improving the situation for farmers. Actions will speak louder than words though.
Leading A Session
The Summit also involved break-out sessions, one of which I had been asked to co-chair. Despite being nervous about a co-chairing situation, I knew I couldn’t turn the offer down. Most people I know told me they would have been too scared to attend the event, let alone host a discussion with a room of distinguished guests.
Lord Richard Benyon was my co-chair and he handed me the discussion topics a few minutes before we entered our allocated discussion room. I had to think quickly of ways to bring each person from the group into our debate and frantically flicked through the book of names to see where I could find links.
Among the 15 names in my group were lead of last year’s independent Tenancy Working Group Baroness Rock, the Chief Executive of The Institute for Agriculture and Horticulture (TIAH) Janet Swadling and Kaleb, with a range of academics and other industry CEOs. Together with Lord Benyon, we managed it, and I purposely chose NFYFC’s AGRI Manager Sarah Palmer to speak last as I knew she would be excellent at summarising the discussion.
As we were ending there was a loud knock on the door, and we were told we had overrun (not surprising as we had to relinquish our smart devices when we arrived!). I got rushed into a room, where someone placed a microphone on me and pushed me on to a stage. I suddenly found myself front of stage, sitting between the NFU President Minette Batters and Thérèse Coffey and facing a crowd of 60 esteemed industry delegates.
How did I get here?
Inside I was screaming ‘how did I get here?’ but to stop myself from being overwhelmed, I knew I had to rely on my Young Farmers’ training. Being involved in YFC has prepared me for these unexpected presentations. Public Speaking competitions, meetings as County Chair and chairing NFYFC Council felt like the groundwork for this very moment! I knew I had to draw on my YFC skills and channel my energy into doing what YFC members do best.
I followed Minette Batters with my group’s summary. I shared the challenges around finance, the need for more investment in technology and people, and the wider food education that’s required.
My summary was met with a tremendous reaction – with people approaching me afterwards to say I had done YFC proud. I was hugged by Baroness Rock and Farming Minister Mark Spencer, congratulated by my co-chair and generally praised for my efforts. I felt honoured and proud of myself for holding my own in a room full of people involved at the highest levels of our industry and politics. And proud that I had represented young farmers.
This is what YFC is all about.
Not only being offered these amazing opportunities – but also being equipped with the skills to make the most of them.