Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster (YFCU), the leading rural youth organisation in Northern Ireland, has announced the appointment of their new President, Stuart Mills, following the tenure of Peter Alexander.
In this Q&A, we sit down with Stuart to discuss his vision for the organisation.
Tell us about yourself.
I'm Stuart Mills, a YFCU member for 22 years. I live with my wife Sarah on a lowland farm near Moneymore. Farming is part-time for me; I work full-time as a Project Manager for a Mechanical and Electrical contractor in County Tyrone.
My YFCU experience has taught me practical life skills and sparked my passion for charity work. I love sharing my teamwork and competition knowledge with new and current members. Networking in the agri-food supply chain is crucial, and I'm excited to play an active role in YFCU's growth for the next generation.
What compelled you to run for the position of YFCU President?
The decision to run for the position was not taken lightly. I joined YFCU at a fun day in Moneymore Village and gained personal benefits, skills, travel, hosting opportunities, and lifelong friends through competitions, events, and training.
I feel that it is time for me to give back to the organisation that has given me so much. My goal is to encourage others to seek out and enjoy the rewards and benefits through enthusiastic participation.
I am passionate about YFCU, and I believe that I have the skills and experience necessary to lead the organisation.
What challenges do you foresee for YFCU and how do you plan to overcome them?
YFCU is a people-centered association and prioritises activities like meetings, group work, and individual competitions that promote good citizenship and essential life skills. These experiences foster personal resilience, initiative, creativity, and future leadership potential.
Our members seek affordable opportunities for the future and a pollution-free environment. One challenge is how to help them adapt to the change in today's world. Our members face many obstacles, including the pressure of social media, unreliable broadband connectivity, rising living costs, rising transportation costs, and the difficulty of early home ownership.
Securing funding for skills development work is key to our future and as a caring association, our Executive Committee will continue to engage with local decision makers to present the matters that concern our members.
Along with access to a good education, good job opportunities and help with farm succession planning, the current and future wellbeing of our young people is also a top YFCU priority.
What are your aims for the future of YFCU?
I want to see more of our members develop their personal resilience, “inner confidence” and leadership skills.
Our Post - COVID recruitment drive got off to a good start. Going forward my aim is to fully capture the progressive ideas of our young and vibrant membership.
I’m keen to emphasise the benefits of working together in a TEAM approach following my theme for the year. I intend to evaluate what has worked well in the past and help our committees to build on that.
Remembering the benefits that I have gained from participating in our competitions, I also hope to encourage our members to transform their personal skills set by participating in more of our competitions and avail of travel opportunities.
If you could give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?
Firstly, I would encourage myself to step out of my comfort zone and take on more challenges, particularly by participating in competitions. Secondly, expand my networks by attending events and meeting new people. Thirdly, emphasise the importance of seizing opportunities and making the most of my time. Finally, I would remind myself that time is precious and not to be wasted, as money can’t buy it back.
How do you plan to engage with, and involve young farmers in YFCU activities and decision-making processes?
For me, timely feedback is key I will continue to use social media, along with the existing committee structures to help me keep abreast of issues and communicate progress to our various planning and implementation teams.
Alongside the Presidential team, I aim to be visible and accessible at our main events and competitions. By doing so, I will be able to listen to the perspectives and concerns of our members, ensuring that their voices are heard.
What do you see as the biggest challenges facing young farmers today, and how do you plan to address them?
The agri-food industry is facing a range of new environmental priorities and targets that must be met. These issues are of crucial importance and will affect all of us. As young individuals familiar with rural and farming families' challenges, it's crucial to have our voices heard. I intend to rally members to identify the most pressing issues and share ideas that need to be brought to the attention of relevant committees.
Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster are pleased to announce Stuart Mills as the 23/24 President and look forward to supporting him in his new role. We thank Peter Alexander for his contributions as the 21/23 President and wish Stuart all the best in his new role.