In true Victor Meldrew style: I simply don't believe it. Farmers have gone mad for our harvest highlights.....
And don't you believe it the next time someone tries to convince you that farmers are not great users of the web.
In the last few weeks, we've regularly had 140,000 page views on our harvest highlights picture galleries on www.fwispace.co.uk. We've had almost 900 harvest photographs supplied by farmers and farm workers this summer and for many we are not even half way through the harvest season. Last year, we received about 300 pictures on the same theme. It just goes to show that farmers and their families really enjoy taking shots of their farm and machinery in action and then sharing and comparing them with others online. You can register for fwispace for free, upload your pictures and create your own stunning gallery, and it's easy to do.
A handful of would-be David Baileys have sent 50-100 pictures each and we're talking about top quality snaps that would be the envy of many professional photographers. In fact, we've been so impressed and stunned by this participation with our readers and web users that we ran a photographic competition to find the best snap for the front cover of FW magazine. Look out for the winner in next week's issue. You may also have noticed the double page spreads in print showing magazine readers what's going on online. We call this kind of material "user generated content" because it's been supplied by farmers and is distinct and unique from anything the journalists here can deliver.
All this interaction is positive for the farming community and for us. Not only are farmers getting a real kick out of showing their great work off to others but it also reflects the vibrancy of this great industry. The picture galleries are driving amazing traffic growth to our website www.fwi.co.uk and I firmly believe it encourages loyalty to the magazine as well.
As people become more and more time poor, the success of all media will largely depend on our ability to be relevant, engaging, entertaining as well as informing. But what do you think? If you are a reader of the magazine or a user of our website, do you like to see pictures or words supplied by other farmers? What do you see as the pros and cons of this approach? Do you think we do enough or too much of user generated content? On what type of occasions is it most or least appropriate to use it?
So calling all web fanatics, we'd love to know what motivates you to participate in discussion forums online or supply pictures for online gallieries. And also how can we keep improving the service?.
Farmers like to see Farmers Weekly campaigning on their behalf but you have to pick your moments and you have to hook others in to make it fly.. Timing and themes are everything when you are campaigning for change. So this week we're pushing the boat out with something extremely important to the arable sector. We've launched a new campaign: Save Our Sprays: Keep farming productive, which is all about lobbying the EU Commission on its proposals to tighten up pesticide approval regulation.
It's crazy to think the regulators are making life even harder for the arable sector at a time when some parts of the world are suffering catastrophic famine and climate change continues to put more pressure on Europe as a mainstream crop producer.
This is the right theme at the right time because the proposals could wipe out more than 80 per cent of the pesticides, herbicides and fungicides commonly used on British farms. It would have far reaching implications for the future of European agriculture and is worrying growers the length and breadth of the country. It's crazy to think the regulators are making life even harder for the arable sector at a time when some parts of the world are suffering catastrophic famine and climate change continues to put more pressure on Europe as a mainstream crop producer. .
Our view is that it's perfectly understandable for European politicians and bureaucrats to question the threat of these substances to human health and the environment and to want to limit or stop their use if they are dangerous. But it's not acceptable to force farmers to abandon these sprays before it is adequately proven that they cause harm.
Just because a product has hazardous properties doesn't mean it's dangerous. A cup of coffee, for example, contains carcinogens and toxins, but we don't view a latte or capuccino as dangerous.
That's why we're joining forcing with the NFU, the Crop Protection Association and others to push for two demands:
* We want an EU wide impact assessment on the proposals so that politicians have all the evidence and the likely implications for the public, the environment, the food supply, prices and farm incomes.
* We also want a clear definition of the hazard criteria that determine whether a pesticide can be used. And we are calling for no more hazard criteria to be added..
Commentators predict that crop production in this country could be halved and food prices will go sky high if the EU Commission has its way, so we must put the pressure on now.
There's lots you can do to help support the campaign and press the Commission to do the right thing:
Sign up to our e-petition at www.fwi.co.uk/sos.
Find your local Member of the European Parliament and write to him/her explaining the damage this could do to your business. Finding your MEP is easy simply go to www.europarl.org.uk/uk_meps for an interactive map.
In the next few weeks, we will be explaining more about the campaign in the magazine and online, so watch this space. We are hopeful that we can galvanise support from our Eurofarm colleagues overseas. They head up the equivalent of Farmers Weekly - publications and websites serving farming audiences right across Europe - and could help us reach millions of people as a powerful lobbying tool. So don't sit on the sidelines, it's time to get active and show the European politicians we mean business.