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Digging in for farmers' clubs.

Byline: By Daniel Thomson

Website of the week with Daniel Thomson.

If you thought farming and the internet had little in common then prepare to be surprised.

Agriculture has a growing presence on the World Wide Web, and nowhere more so than in the North where one of the net's most innovative farming sites is set to launch this week. is full of news, views, gossip and games as well as county competitions, a who's who, club profiles, and numerous other features.

Northumberland Young Farmers' Club has 11 clubs from Berwick in the north to Haltwhistle in the south and was set up in 1932 to bring together rural youth in a safe and fun environment.

The aim of the club was to address rural isolation in a positive and different way, and it is hoped that the website will bring this goal into the 21st century.

Northumberland YFC approached Hexham business development company VOBA to design the site in November last year.

VOBA, which stands for Virtual Office Business Administration, was founded in 2004 by Durham Business School graduate Graeme Hodgson who has recently returned to the North after working in Scotland.

Graeme says; "We were asked to get involved in November 2004 through my existing connections with Northumberland Young Farmers. My sister is chairperson of Shaftoe Young Farmers in Haydon Bridge, and the county chairperson at the time of initiating the project, Nicola Bolton, is a close family friend.

"Their original request was to refresh and update the look and feel of their website, but I suggested this wouldn't add any value and would provide only limited benefits.

"So I proposed a content management system to integrate the 11 clubs across Northumberland and enable people to edit and update the entire site without any technical knowledge.

"They can change the content, menu system, images and interact with each other through the message board. Users can be given individual levels of editorial control and nothing can be published without editor approval ( a must for Ofsted regulations.

"My plan was to use Northumberland Young Farmers as an example of what technology can achieve for a business, and I think it's been very successful."

VOBA is set to have its official launch at the New Start Scotland exhibition in Glasgow in March, but the North is Graeme's main focus.

"The North is a strategic market to me and you will undoubtedly hear more about VOBA in future months. The Northum-berland Young Farmers is just our first move to expose ourselves in the region."

To celebrate the launch of their website, Northumberland YFC is going to feature a `restaurant of the month' in all the rural towns covered by its clubs.

Piccolino's Italian Restaurant on Bondgate, Alnwick, Northumberland, is going to be the first and YFC members will get a 10pc discount on any midweek meal on production of a YF membership card throughout March. is a good looking, easy-to-navigate site that is packed with information and will be an essential resource for anyone interested in farming.

So if you thought the net was all about the latest technology think again ( the net is a community, and no community would be the same without somewhere to celebrate the rural way of life.
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Copyright 2005 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Feb 11, 2005
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