Opinion: Farming should embrace the media

Like it or not, we all need the media. A case in point: without Farmers Weekly these words will never be read, writes farmer-turned-presenter Gareth Barlow.

In farming, about 60,000 new entrants are required, while 58 is the average age of a farmer. These are numbers we need to address to guarantee the future of farming.

So let’s look to the media to extol agriculture’s virtues, highlight the development of our industry and create more fans of agribusiness.

How about a programme specifically for farmers on mainstream television? Great idea, but it won’t happen.

Television has to sell to audiences, advertisers and executives and an industry-specific show doesn’t fulfil those criteria; major channels need to appeal to the largest possible audience base during peak hours.

According to Defra, in June 2013, 464,000 people were employed on commercial holdings – even if all of them, plus a few other interested parties, watched, it wouldn’t be enough.

Meanwhile, series about agriculture but not necessarily aimed at farmers, such as First Time Farmers, Countryfile and The Dales, all provide a vehicle for farming. Collectively, in an average week, they are watched by 9.8 million viewers.

Though the Towie style of some of these shows may occasionally grate, remember that if farming is to attract young people, the format must engage them.

Of course, such exposure brings the potential for negativity and adverse headlines.

But it also brings the industry a challenge, which provides the chance to strengthen arguments and force improvement.

Farming is on the cusp of another boom as it plays the crucial role of feeding the world’s growing population. It is also facing a continually changing media landscape and we must move with it or risk becoming old news.

See more