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Communicating with the next generation of consumers

5th Sep 2019 / By Tom Martin

Tom Martin, better known as Farmer Tom, urges pig producers to get involved in an initiative that connects farmers to the next generation of consumers. Tom is the co-founder of FaceTime a Farmer, and farms cereals and sheep in north-west Cambridgeshire

Farmer TomBefore answering the call of the land, I spent 10 years working in an office in London, and the friends I gathered there are amongst the best a man could wish for: loyal, trustworthy, fun, and quick to buy their round.

These people are in many cases people of influence at the top of their game, occupying high powered roles; they’re clever...but they don’t half believe some rubbish when it comes to where their food comes from.

Contrary to popular belief, it was not G K Chesterton who said: “When men stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing; they believe in anything.” But it’s a good quote anyway, and when we equate it to food production, we could say that 'when people have no experience of farming, they don’t have fewer opinions, but more!'.

I am told all manner of things, and regularly see videos of pigs, filmed in the dead of night, squealing in terror. I of course reply in the latter cases to say that if anyone found masked strangers in their house in the middle of the night running around and shining torches in their face, they be a little afraid too. And that those same pigs, when visited in the light of day in the company of the farmer, are lucky enough to be part of a highly regulated system in a country that is one of only 4 globally that is graded ‘A’ on the Animal Protection Index produced by ‘World Animal Protection’.

You see, when people are removed from the truth, and their perception of the world is formed through social media newsfeeds and anthropomorphic hoardings on the London Underground, they can develop and outrageously warped perception of reality, and it is this ‘reality’ that affects how they lobby government - how they vote politically - and it informs their buying decisions - how they vote with their money.

Our challenge as an industry, at a time when we need the public on side more than ever, is to share the truth of a food production system that they can be proud of, of world-leading standards, and our first class stewardship of the nation’s rural heritage.

Some years ago, on our farm, we launched a program called FaceTime a farmer, where we linked with the school some 200 miles away, and video call them, using FaceTime or Skype once a fortnight.

The teacher would let us know what the children have been studying in class - weather, pollinators, genetics, lifecycles - and we position ourselves somewhere on the farm that links to that. There ensues a 10 to 15 minute, interactive conversation, with some fantastic questions, and an opportunity for the children to see, live on screen, a real farmer, on a real farm, with real livestock and/or crops.

In short, the living truth straight from the horse’s mouth...or the farmer’s.

This project is now running nationwide with 300 farmers already linked each to their own classroom, and therefore around 9,000 children paired to real farmers. And I wonder, would you join us? It’s free, fun, and just requires a smart phone with some mobile reception and 10 minutes of your time every other week.

All the details are on the website, and you can sign up there too!

Never has there been a more important time to show people what happens on the other side of the farm gate, never have we needed the support of our customers and politicians more, but also never have we had the technology to share our story more easily, more effectively, and for free.

There’s our challenge.