TEAMS of volunteers from two well-known groups in Cumbria are celebrating after being awarded The King's Award for Voluntary Service.

This is the highest award a local voluntary group can receive in the UK. It is the MBE for voluntary groups.

The Cumbria Federation of Young Farmers' Clubs (Cumbria YFC) and Susan's Farm in Houghton, near Carlisle, say they are honoured to be included in the first cohort of voluntary organisations to receive the award for the outstanding work of their volunteers.

William Longmire, County Chair of Cumbria YFC said “We couldn’t be more proud of this award and of our volunteers. For Cumbria YFC to be recognised in this way is an incredible achievement and means so much to us all. The commitment and enthusiasm of our volunteers is what makes Cumbria YFC so special and we are grateful for their dedication and support which has helped us achieve so much as an organisation.”

Founded in 1937, Cumbria YFC had two main principles; to help those working in agriculture to develop the skills to represent themselves and their industry and to help combat the loneliness of rural life. These principles still ring true today and it is only through the commitment and hard work of hundreds of volunteers over the last 86 years that Cumbria YFC has been able to develop and thrive.

Susan's Farm is a registered charity, a Care Farm providing opportunities for therapeutic working for those with long term mental health issues and higher-level needs, learning and practical work experience through education visits, and alternative provision for those who need a different learning environment. It all happens on an organic beef and sheep farm in Houghton.

At the time of nomination in December 2022, there were 43 regular volunteers supporting the work of the education and farm staff. Some help on an occasional basis, others give up to three days a week, every week.

'It is no exaggeration to say that without this great team of volunteers, Susan’s Farm would not be able to run. There are stalwarts coming week in and week out, in all weathers, mending fences, sorting gates and helping with animal jobs; young and not-so-young people who willingly come and feed and muck out the stable, or the hen house, and others who support the various groups, all volunteering alongside the trustees, who give time and skills to ensure good governance and a sound financial footing. Staff say they would be lost without these volunteers! Add to that the friendships and support that have grown both between volunteers, and also with the staff and you get a picture of what makes Susan’s Farm such a special place.'

Fiona Merritt, volunteer and Chair of the Trustees says, “To receive this award is an honour. I am absolutely delighted that the work of all the volunteers here at Susan’s Farm has been recognised. It is only by the dedicated work of our volunteers that Susan’s Farm has grown to be the super, energy-filled and inspiring place that it is today.”

Cumbria YFC and Susan's Farm are two of 262 local charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups to receive this prestigious award this year.

See Page 29 for volunteer Cumbria YFC profiles