So, how do you promote an industry? Especially an industry as diverse as British Agriculture. When so many people don’t even know how diverse it truly is! I certainly didn’t before I came to university. But that’s the problem, why has it taken nearly two years of a university education for me to start to comprehend how diverse, skilled and dedicated this industry is?
There’s thousands and thousands of people involved in the farming sector (400,000 to be precise-ish) so why is it so hard to make ourselves heard about how fantastic this industry is? We’ve got social media, we’ve got television, we’ve got radio, and although there are people working hard to positively advertise British Agriculture, there’s not enough of us.
Of course, there’s the industry big leagues. The NFU, Farmers Weekly, Farmers Guardian, they’re all working hard to get the ‘voice’ of Britains farmers heard, but I can’t help but think that they’re often preaching to the converted. If I went around university, and asked students how many of them follow the NFU on Twitter, ‘like’ them on Facebook, or read their publications, it would be the majority. If I went onto the street and asked the same question? Over the past few days the NFU have held their annual conference, and my Twitter timeline has been filled with some amazing facts and figures about the agricultural industry in the UK. I’ve put some below for any readers that haven’t seen them.
I find it hard to look at the statements in the above tweets and believe that people wouldn’t want to support British Agriculture (but I am biased!). There’s no reason not to. But if there is a reason, it’s because people usually aren’t aware of what brilliant food we produce, and all the labour, technology, knowledge and passion that goes into producing it.
I think it’s a difficult job to undertake, promoting British Agriculture to the population of the UK. Almost as difficult as my GCSE Maths teacher trying to teach me to do equations. The interest, on many occasions, just isn’t there. In Mintel’s latest survey, 77% of respondents agreed it was important to support British farmers, but only 56% said they buy British food whenever they can. So if it’s important to support British farmers, why aren’t you buying their produce? That’s why promoting the industry is so important.
It really is my opinion that most farmers are rubbish at promoting their produce. Since shops and supermarkets have developed, there’s no need for a farmer to be a salesman as well as everything else. But when the supermarkets have so many other goods to sell, why would they make a special effort for us? (Although Lidl is doing a pretty good job with their #Lidlsurprises adverts like this one). This is our industry. We’ve got all the knowledge, we’ve done all the work, so why don’t we start shouting about it?
I realise not all of us have a natural aptitude and talent for cameras (Yes, I’m looking at you Gareth Wyn Jones) and not all of us have the literary talents of James Rebanks, but we’re all part of communities, we’ve (probably) all got a smartphone, we can all talk to people, and tell them about what we do, why we do it, and what our hard work produces. If you’ve got the chance then Open Farm Sunday’s are a fantastic way to get the public involved and interested in what we do. There’s companies you can get involved with that are using QR codes on packaging to allow the consumer full traceability of their product. (Something I wrote about for Farmers’ Weekly, article here, and would absolutely love to see supported and developed). Even just going down to your local and talking to someone that might not know that UK meat is produced to some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world.
76% of the food that the UK population eats is produced by us, and I think it’s time that more British farmers were proud of that fact, and started giving their produce the promotion it deserves.