Sophie Thornton is the North East's first participant in the NFU's national Student and Young Farmer Ambassador Programme. With the second programme now open for applications, she reflects on what she describes as an amazing year:
"It is hard to know quite where to start when reflecting back on the last year as an NFU Student and Young Farmer Ambassador.
"I remember driving to Coventry for our first meeting not really knowing what to expect. A year on and I have taken part in the Lord Mayor’s Show in London, attended workshops on Net Zero, joined in on Speakers for Schools training, visited the NFU Brussels office and the European Parliament and attended the NFU Conference in Birmingham – meeting so many influential speakers along the way.
"Not only that, but I got the chance to meet a group of great, like-minded, other Ambassadors from all over the country, working in different sectors but with the same passion for British farming.
"For me the most memorable experience was the Lord Mayor’s Show – which takes place every year in the City of London and centres on a three-mile long procession packed full of different floats including military bands, giant teapots, African drummers, an inflatable pig, 6,500 people and 120 horses.
"The NFU joins forces with the Worshipful Company of Farmers, Red Tractor and Massey Ferguson to join the parade and to encourage people to #Backbritishfarming – with an astonishing 500,000 people lining the route.
"Last year we accompanied a Massey Ferguson MF 8740S tractor pulling an enormous market stall of British produce. Even better, for the first time ever, the procession was led by the new Lady Mayorness, Hilary Russell, not in a gleaming limousine, but in a tractor!
"For me, this symbolised the diversity of farming and how great British food really is at the heart of the nation.
"Walking beside such a spectacle was a brilliant way to showcase everything UK farmers do to produce food that safe, traceable and affordable and gives people a chance to ask questions and understand more about what is involved in producing their food. After the event, the food from the stall was donated to the City Harvest charity which supports 300 organisations across London.
"The day was truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and a fantastic experience – one that I will never forget – but the ambassador scheme is about more than attending conferences and events.
"Personally, it has given me more confidence to shout about what we do as an industry over social media, whether you work on farm, for a processor, or a consultancy company. Together we produce products to among the best standards globally, so why not shout out about it?
"I have also been challenged to test myself, writing articles for the different NFU publications and presenting my dissertation findings on blockchain technology within the poultry industry to 50 delegates at an NFU ‘poultry innovation’ seminar. There have also been plenty of opportunities to network at different events.
"It truly has been an incredible experience and a year to remember. so I would thoroughly recommend it to others in the region."
The 2020 Student & Young Farmer Ambassador Programme
starts in September
The deadline for applications is 1 July 2020