A survey exploring public opinion about agriculture and the countryside has revealed widespread affection for farming, despite a great deal of ignorance about the sector.

Almost 85% of people consider farming important to the UK economy and three quarters said the industry was important in protecting the environment, a University of Cambridge and YouGov poll found.

However, the survey uncovered a “surprising level of ignorance” about the extent and contribution of farming in the UK.

The majority of people feel that they do not know much, or no nothing, about the sector. This appears to be substantiated by the fact that most people dramatically underestimate the proportion of land used for farming, while overestimating its economic contribution, said Mark Reader, land economy researcher at the University of Cambridge, who commissioned the survey.

Only one in 10 people knew that farming takes up 75% of available land in the UK, with the average estimate around 35%.

“These results show that while many people are ignorant about farming, it’s a well-meaning ignorance as their heart is in the right place.”
Mark Reader, University of Cambridge

Despite this, the contribution of farming to the economy was estimated at 24%, when in fact it contributes just 1.5% of GDP.

Two thirds of those surveyed think the farming economy will get smaller in the next 10 years. Building homes, roads and airports were thought to be the biggest threats to the countryside.

“The most surprising aspect to these results is the degree of favourable outlook on farming,” said Mr Reader.

“It’s fantastic to see that people appreciate the contribution of the agricultural sector, given its likely significance in the future.

“These results show that while many people are ignorant about farming, it’s a well-meaning ignorance as their heart is in the right place.”

More on this topic

See more views on farming on our Farmers Apprentice page.

Robyn Vinter on G+