Opinion: Channel JFK and find solutions for farming in 2024

Ask not what your countryside can do for you, ask what you can do for your countryside. I hope JFK doesn’t mind me twisting his words, but in the doldrums of winter, I think it’s needed.

From TV documentaries to the Scottish government “raiding” agricultural budgets, it often feels like farming is being attacked on all fronts.

So rather than feeling helpless and depressed, why not do something about it?

See also: Opinion – Dutch political movement echoes Crofters’ party

About the author

David Bennie
David Bennie works on the family sheep, beef and arable farm near Stirling. He is also involved with the Royal Highland Education Trust and the Scottish Association of Young Farmers Clubs. 
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Forget the new year’s resolutions of getting fit or learning new languages. The countryside needs people who are passionate about conserving and enhancing our rural sector.

Now more than ever, it is vital to get involved with organisations making a difference.  

Volunteering with groups such as the Royal Highland Education Trust (Rhet) and the NFU’s Farmers for Schools to inspire and educate schoolkids is a great way to get started.

Rhet even has dairy farms providing schools with monthly cow production figures to get kids doing “cow maths” with the data.  

Dispelling myths around food and farming, as well as providing kids and teachers with a first-person account of what it’s really like working in the UK’s farming industry, means you can push back against the anti-farming forces.

Short on time for school visits? Farmer Time is popular, and can be done from the comfort of your own home.

On our last Rhet Zoom call we had 6,000 pupils tuned in just to hear me chat about lambing. Wi-fi permitting, the potential to livestream a working farm into urban schools is huge.

I take my hat off to those who invite schools along for farm visits and participate in Open Farm Sunday. It’s definitely not for every farm, but the payback in increasing the public’s agricultural awareness is massive.

Those brave enough to stick their head above the parapet on social media perhaps have the greatest potential to educate and influence the public.

YouTube stars such as Tom Pemberton and The Sheep Game have found their way into unsuspecting townies’ newsfeeds, and influenced them in ways that other traditional media outlets would kill for.

Just look at the PR buzz from the clifftop rescue of Fiona, Britain’s loneliest sheep.

Did that programme or ad on TV anger you with its incorrect facts about farming? Jump on the Ofcom website and let them know exactly what you think.

In 2022, Tesco saw its misleading vegan ads banned due to public complaints lodged with advertising standards.

Think your farming union isn’t strong enough on government policy? Go full Karen in an email, lobby and write to MPs on why you think *insert daft government idea* is detrimental to the rural sector.

Cancelling your union membership and huffing in the corner achieves nowt. Be part of the solution instead.

In agriculture’s current circumstances, sitting back isn’t an option.

If you’ve got the energy to write a moany social media post about farming’s dire condition, then put that energy into something constructive instead. 

It’s hard to take the time to do something, but the alternative is to watch the land and way of life we love get eroded by misguided politics and pseudo-environmental ideology.

It doesn’t matter what form it takes but this year, find your own way of fighting for your countryside.  

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