Coming to Harper from a non-farming background has really thrown me in at the deep end in to the world of farmers. Whilst I’ve never been much of a ‘townie’, I didn’t know all that much about agriculture and never was that more obvious than when I started at Harper Adams. All I knew was that I was interested in the countryside and farming, and quite willing to do as much as possible to expand my knowledge.
In a world where agriculture is advancing technologically so rapidly, and with an increasing need to produce more food in challenging conditions, I believe educating the population as a whole about where food comes from and how it is produced is fundamental to feeding everyone good, nutritious food, and helping to keep farming sustainable.
The debate about the usefulness of programs such as the BBC’s Countryfile is probably as old as the programs themselves. While I can see that it does often offer a ‘rose-tinted’ view of country life, I do think it’s a useful tool in creating interest in the countryside. Once that interest is there, it can be built on.
Social media is being embraced by farmers as a way to connect with each other and the wider world. Even as I’m typing this I’ve got a Twitter feed full of pictures of cows and stories of pregnancy scanning ewes. The twitter account @felfie_, which posts ‘farming selfies’ even made it’s way onto The Guardian’s website in an article about snapping a picture of yourself with your favourite cow. And Will Wilson has even set up a website full of them.
But some of the public comments on the article show how much of a need there is for educating people about food and farming. I don’t remember being taught about it at school and if I wasn’t, coming from a small, rural market town, then was anyone?
Former butcher and sheep farmer Gareth Barlow is someone who shares my passion for educating people about food. Gareth is using his blog to tell people about food, from how long meat should be hung for, to why tomatoes are fruit. And a bit of digging around on the internet (twitter) shows that there are loads of people out there who are just as keen as Gareth to share food and farming.
If you want to know more about farming, a good place to start is Farmers Of The UK on Twitter. A different farmer each week posts about their daily life and farming practices, and always welcome questions.
There are even loads of short courses in food and agriculture out there if it really takes your fancy!