Good afternoon and welcome to the 60th Annual General meeting of the National Vegetable Society, here in the Chapel Community Chapel Hall, Cross Houses, nr Shrewsbury.
Whether you have travelled from near or far it is nice to see you all.
Chairs report National AGM 2021, Shrewsbury.
Ladies and Gents, it is absolutely wonderful to be standing here in person with so many of you here at the AGM. The last 18 months have been hard on all of us and hard on the NVS with the impact of Covid 19 affecting everyone. However more on that later
If you recall in 2019, I said that I had two main aims on taking up the Chair of our society. Firstly, I wanted to bring stability to the Trustees Board in order that we could start the process of re-vitalising the Society and bringing it into being a more modern Society that provides a great experience for its members. Well, how have we done? The Trustees Board is now a hard-working cohesive team that are working well to push the Society forwards. I am proud to be their Chair and I thank each and every one of them for their work for the Society.
Secondly, I said that together with the Trustees Board we would implement changes that would be of benefit to our members. The production of the Development Plan was the first stage in helping us identify what required to be changed and how we would carry out these changes. Like any plan work will be constantly ongoing however I am pleased to report that the new membership system and website went live in November 2020. Both myself and the Trustees are of the opinion that this is the building block to take us into the future in many other areas. Already the benefits of streamlining the membership process are being realized in a reduction of workload. In addition, work is ongoing to look at the financial aspects of membership, with a subgroup chaired by Norman Dickinson. The system will continue to evolve as we grow more experienced in its use, plus we have a system provider in White Fuse Ltd who are a progressive and forward-thinking company – which bodes well for the future.
The impact of Covid has touched us all and has impacted greatly on our normal operations. Early on a decision was taken to hold Trustees meetings by Zoom to continue trying to keep the Society going forward in some areas. I have to say that these Zoom meetings worked extremely well, so much so that we are continuing them in place of face-to-face meetings. This will prevent long travel for some Trustees and also provide a significant financial saving. The Trustees recognized that normal activities at Branch and DA level would be severely impacted so a decision was made to run a series of Zoom talks for members during the winter months. These also proved to be extremely successful, and we will continue them this Winter.
The reduction in membership during 2020 was of particular concern to us. However, with some hard work and initiatives such as Facebook and DT Brown placing promotional flyers in catalogues and seed orders, I’m pleased to say not only did we halt the decline but increased our membership back over the 2000 mark. These initiatives will also be continued in order to continue gaining new members.
However, a word of caution. Although we have recruited a large number of members, we need to ensure we retain them in the Society. Again, work through the development plan continues in this area, with the first step being a member’s survey. This was carried out by Raymond Higgins and a large number of replies were received, which are being discussed at present. I really want to emphasise that the NVS is your Society – the Trustees are their to manage it on your behalf so if there is anybody that wants to help take us forward or has some great ideas please step forward. You don’t have to be a Trustee or official.
We have also almost completed the process of standardization to provide a more professional image for the Society. A Communications strategy is also now with the Trustees for discussion as part of the development plan so hopefully that will be implemented soon.
As I said before Covid has had a huge impact on us all personally and as a Society. My heart goes out to those who have suffered from this. However, I am pleased that we are taking the first steps to some form of normality in that some meetings and shows are taking place. This is important to us as a Society as one of the main benefits of being a member is the meeting with friends and the camaraderie that we all enjoy. That is probably the main thing we have all missed.
So where do we go now. Well, the Trustees have had the opportunity to continue most elements of their business by Zoom. However, we recognize that it will take time for Branches and DA`s to get back to where they want to be. Recovering from the impact of Covid must be our priority in order that we can keep the NVS viable. I know this will be a hard task, but I have no doubt we will rise to the challenge.
The NVS is a wonderful Society which is loved by us all. As Chair, together with the Trustees, Branch and DA officials and you the members I want to not only keep it that way but continue to grow and provide what our members want from the NVS.
So, in summary we are delivering the changes required – we still have a long way to go – there will be challenges for us – but we are in a solid position to do so. So, let’s forget about it for a while and enjoy the National Championships and the Social evening tonight.