Sometimes it might not seem like it, but there really is a huge public well of support for farmers. While there’s a vocal minority active on Twitter, the vast majority of UK consumers support our farmers and value UK produce.
The fact that nearly 300,000 people spent time and effort visiting a farm during last year’s Leaf (Linking Environment and Farming) Open Farm Sunday is not just a tribute to the hard work of British farmers, but a sign that people not only want to understand about their food, but also to connect with the people who produce it.
However, we’ve moved a long way from the days of farmers taking their produce to market and talking directly to their customers. Supermarkets are now where the day-to-day conversations about food take place.
This means that in many communities, farming is not as well understood as it used to be and that allows people with an ideological opposition to productive farming to exploit that lack of understanding in both the media and in our politics.
Open Farm Sunday
Leaf Open Farm Sunday (9 June, 2019) is therefore the best chance we get all year to show the public what a fantastic job British farming does – and there is no one better to deliver that message than the thousands of farmers who take part all over the country.
It might seem daunting when you’re suddenly faced with hundreds of people asking questions – occasionally difficult ones – but remember, your expertise, coupled with your natural passion for your farm, really will shine through.
It’s fair to say most people will be asking fairly basic questions about how you grow food or how you take care of the animals, but others might ask about pesticides, animal welfare or bee health.
A couple of facts and figures will always come in handy and it’s worth thinking about the sort of questions children might ask.
We all love stories and you should never be afraid to tell the story of your farming life; how you got into farming, the best bits of the job, how it’s changed over the years, any environmental schemes you participate in and what you see as a result.
You don’t have to over-egg it, but remember, many of the people who visit you will have no idea of what a farmer really does. There’s no better tool for learning than a story well told.
As someone who’s been both a radio and TV presenter, and more recently a guest on the same shows I used to report for, I can’t stress enough how important preparation is.
The more you prepare, the less likely you are to be caught out on the day. Like managing a herd or driving a tractor, speaking to the public is another skill and one that improves with practice.
There’s loads of advice and information available in the Open Farm Sunday “Speak Out Toolkit” which you can find here
Every farmer who opens their gates on Open Farm Sunday is making a huge difference to the way the public understands the realities of food production.
And in the coming months and years, when politicians are taking decisions about the future of British agriculture, having the public on our side will be absolutely vital.
Good luck and enjoy the day.
Sarah Mukherjee is chief executive of the Crop Protection Association (CPA)