Farmer Focus: Do more to help walkers learn about farming

Spring drilling was all wrapped up by early April – this year has already provided most of the drilling conditions possible going from very difficult to very easy in a relatively short time.

Crops have established well and on the whole are now benefiting from the minimal disturbance drilling method and the moisture it helped retain. Sugar beet is presently an unfortunate reminder on how spring cultivations in a year like this can be a bad move, with varying germination.

See also: How ethylene can help control sprouting in potato stores

While coronavirus is hindering progress with my mid-tier capital works, and making other jobs more complicated we have been very lucky that the impact has been minimal so far.

I cannot imagine being stuck at home for weeks without the usual freedom we all take for granted, and while the extra people out walking does bring some issues, it is also a huge opportunity for engagement and to show off what, why and how we do things.

Some simple signs explaining what crops are grown for, and what field margins, wild bird mixes and beetle banks are planted for, and the wildlife they are there to encourage and support will go a lot further in keeping people to footpaths and produce a positive result for farming all round in future; than ones that say only “Keep out”.

There are always exceptions, but a lot of lost walkers are innocently ignorant. Footpath signs aren’t always visible, clear, or even present, and to untrained eyes a wide strip of grass around a field for a footpath looks the same as a field margin, especially if half has recently been cut as part of its management.

We need to give people a positive experience on the land we manage while everything else is upside down and not so great. As customers we support businesses that give us good service and a positive experience – the people walking the footpath are our customers and we keep asking for their support – maybe we need to earn it a bit more?

I found some small signs produced by CFE when it was the Campaign for the Farmed Environment that were designed to educate walkers about field margins and ground nesting birds.

Maybe industry organisations, such as the “new” Championing the Farmed Environment could help with some simple infographic style signs to help show people what different parts of the farmed landscape are for.


Matt Redman farms 370ha just north of Cambridge and operates a contracting business specialising in spraying and direct drilling. He also grows cereals on a small area of tenancy land and was Farm Sprayer Operator of the Year in 2014. Read more from Matt Redman.