Oldest surviving YFC couple recall happy days farming in Devon

Devon born and raised Ivan and Rosemary Goff, who now live in Shropshire, are believed to be England’s oldest surviving couple associated with the Young Farmers’ Club movement.

The couple, who live in supported accommodation in Much Wenlock, moved to Shropshire following the pandemic to be closer to their son, Andrew, who lives near Shrewsbury.

Andrew has recorded a video interview with his parents about their recollections of their days as YFC members.

Ivan, 96 and Rosemary, 90, are natives of the Culm Valley, near Tiverton. Ivan was invited to join Culm Valley YFC in 1946 and his wife followed suit a year later, at the age of 13.

The first YFC opened in 1921 in Hemyock, Devon, where the United Dairies milk factory set children of the area’s milk producers the task of calf rearing, with competitions and prizes for those achieving the highest standards.

Over the next decade more clubs opened to provide agricultural education, with a focus on growing crops, calves, pigs, poultry, bees and gardens.

One of Ivan’s proudest memories is winning the YFC ploughing competition at the age of 22 but he was outshone by Rosemary when it came to winning silverware.

She won a host of competitions for her livestock and was allowed to keep the cup for Best Young Farmer after winning it for three years on the trot. At one point, the couple owned a collection of around 20 cups.

Rosemary recalls her favourite prizewinning calf, which she named Betty, with great fondness. She donated one of her collection, named the Flay Cup in honour of her maiden name, to Honiton Agricultural Show and it’s still awarded annually to the best calf rearer.

During the video interview, the couple both said they had enjoyed the social aspect of being YFC members, as well as the competitions. They encouraged today’s young farmers to enjoy their time in the YFC and to spend wisely with an eye to the future

They also both praised the YFC for its charity fundraising and for moving with the times.

During their younger days, Ivan and Rosemary were well known for their dancing, joining five other couples in travelling to dances around their home area.

Today, despite Ivan’s failing health, the couple are still inseparable, spending most days together at Lady Forester Nursing Home in Much Wenlock.