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Young NPA National - getting the industry on the front foot

7th Dec 2018 / By Alistair Driver

A lively Young NPA National event discussed how the pig industry can get ‘on the front foot’ in its communications to the media and wider public.

Abi Kay ynpaThe well-attended event, as always sponsored by A-One Feed Supplements, took place in central London on Thursday afternoon, with four excellent speakers and an in-depth panel discussion taking in a range of topical issues.

Farmers Guardian’s Abi Kay (right) kicked things by outlining how she goes about generating and developing stories at this critical time for the industry’s future. She said Brexit had pushed farming right up the media agenda, with the focus on food security, plus animal welfare and environmental standards and the threat of lower standard imports. There has never been a more important time for farmers to step and make their voices heard, she said.

Anna Jones YNPAAnna Jones (left), a former Countryfile producer and now a freelance journalist, delivered an update on her Just Farmers project, which is aiming to help ‘real farmers’ get their messages across in the media.

She spoke of the disconnect between farmers and the media, but stressed that both parties were to blame. While the media is often urban biased, lacks specialism in rural issues and frequently lacks the time and resources to give farming stories the coverage they deserve, farmers don’t help themselves by being overly-defensive and secretive about what they do.

The industry is also far too reliant on the voices of industry bodies and their leaders, she said.    

Just Farmers was set up to address this by finding farmers from across the sectors to tell their stories from the farming front line. So far 12 farmers have been recruited from across the sectors, including pigs, and the first media training sessions have taken place.

Anna is now looking for more farmers to join the project. “We need more voices to give that wider human perspective,” she said.

Cows on Tour

Abi Reader YNPAWelsh dairy farmer Abi Reader delivered an equally passionate talk explaining the work she has done to raise the profile of dairy farmers and the wider farming industry. This included the ‘Cows on Tour’ initiative, which started when a group of Welsh dairy farmers visited an inner city London school to talk about what they do, generating a huge amount of publicity and educating the public about where their food comes from.

She also spoke of the benefits of hosting Open Farm Sunday, which in one year alone saw 3,000 people visit her farm.

Abi urged pig farmers in the room to consider what they could for their industry, highlighting the importance of going on courses, including media training, and networking with people to open doors to get your message across. She also spoke of the benefits of social media and the power of good photography to illustrate what farmers do.

Sophie Throup YNPAMorrisons’ agriculture manager Sophie Throup (left) then delivered an interesting summary of how the Bradford-based retailer supports British farmers, with its unique integrated supply chain. It is 100 British on fresh milk, beef, lamb, pork, poultry and eggs and is the only retailer to have livestock buyers who source directly from farmers. It uses 30,000 pigs per week and has a 16% market share.

Sophie outlined various strands of research highlighting how consumers were becoming increasingly interested in various aspects of their food, including food safety, packaging and food waste, animal welfare and supporting British farmers. She also explained how Morrisons communicates to consumers how its supports its farmers and the positive credentials of the food they produce, including via dedicated websites.

During an interactive question and answer session, farming’s relationship with the media was explored in more depth, including the reluctance of many within the pig industry to put their heads above the parapet but also the need, particularly in the context of Brexit, to be ‘on the front foot’.

NPA senior policy advisor Georgina Crayford, who delivered an update on the NPA’s activities, said: “It was a really excellent event during which we explored in depth the industry’s need to be proactive in our communications, but also the barriers of doing so. Thank you to all of our excellent speakers for their time and to the audience for a lively discussion.”