Young Farming Champion and Youth Voices Leadership Team (YVLT) member Laura Phelps recently grabbed an opportunity to broaden her knowledge and share her insights with the UK Government as part of their BREXIT strategy. This opportunity has taken Laura to London where she will be based for the next six months. Laura’s sojourn has opened to door to appoint Bessie Thomas to the YVLT.
Bessie as a grazier and young mother brings a further depth and perspective to the group and shows its commitment to supporting young people in leadership as they face the challenges of balancing work and life.
The YVLT recognises young people are going through rapid transitions from study to work and family and part of its aim is to determine how to best support and encourage them to take on leadership roles.
Formerly involved with Art4Agriculture as an AWI wool Young Farming Champion and in media and communications behind the scenes, Bessie stepped away for a time when she had her first child in 2016.
“The Youth Voices committee seems like the perfect way for me to dip my toes in and get involved with agricultural leadership and support roles again without having to move my focus away from home, farm and motherhood,” she says.
Bessie loves her career as a journalist but she also loves her family and her outback property, and although she was quite sure she could combine them all to her usual high standard, life, she has found, has meant prioritising.
“I have a husband I love, a beautiful young child and a farm currently in drought – they all need me and this is the soil I need to cultivate right now. I can press pause on a career and involvement with external roles, but I can’t press pause on feeding my hungry sheep, supporting my husband, or feeding my hungry child.” Bessie realises she may be able to do it all – but not all at the same time.
The YVLT, now in its infancy, will grow and change as time progresses and how exactly it provides support to its members will also evolve. For now it is enough that one of its goals is to provide a flexible approach to commitment.
“Feeling pressure to over-commit or guilt about potentially letting the team down has stopped me from getting involved with committees in the past,” Bessie says. “With the YVLT I’ve been asked to only give as much of myself as I can. This means I’ll be able to throw my all at projects I’m really keen on when I have the time, or say ‘Sorry guys, I’m shearing/going away/sick and I’m going to be pretty unavailable for the next month’ without feeling guilty about it. Other members are invited to do the same and it means we’ll get the work done as a team without any one person feeling like they have to keep filling in the gaps. It’s a way for me to get involved, use my skills and help the industries I love, but also know that I’m allowed to press pause for a day/week/month or year if I need to, knowing that I can dip back in when the time is right for me again.”
One of the visions of the YVLT is to let young people share their dreams and design the future they want. By attracting one of Art4Agriculutre’s brightest alumni back to the fold and into a leadership position, the YVLT can already call itself a success.
Welcome Bessie #youthvoices18