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BLOG: Sarah Mukherjee, CEO of the Crop Protection Association (CPA)

Sometimes it might not seem like it, but there really is a huge public well of support for farmers. Whilst 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 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 want 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 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. 

LEAF Open Farm Sun­day 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 that 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 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. 

Hand­i­ly, there’s loads of advice and infor­ma­tion avail­able in the Open Farm Sun­day Speak Out Toolk­it” which you can find at https://​farm​sun​day​.org/​o​p​en-my…

Every farmer that 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. 

Thank you, good luck and enjoy the day! 

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