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LEAF Speak Out: Top Tips

There are lots of different ways to communicate your farming story. Here we have some tried and tested top tips to help host farmers feel more confident and better equipped to communicate with the public.

20 Top Tips on engage­ment and answer­ing dif­fi­cult questions

If you are host­ing an LEAF Open Farm Sun­day or farm vis­it, remem­ber that peo­ple have come along to find out about your farm so talk about what you do, what hap­pens on the farm and your real-life expe­ri­ences. They have come to be enter­tained, to learn and to have a fun day out.

It’s always tough answer­ing dif­fi­cult ques­tions about farm­ing and its prac­tices. These top tips aim to give you some guid­ance on how to deal with dif­fi­cult ques­tions, as well as chal­leng­ing mis­con­cep­tions and shar­ing inter­est­ing information.

Sup­port­ed by the Crop Pro­tec­tion Association

Down­load the Top Tips as a PDF

These points are rel­e­vant to face-to-face as well as online engagement.

Above all, stay calm, tell your sto­ry with con­fi­dence, and share your pas­sion and enthu­si­asm for farm­ing. Answer ques­tions hon­est­ly and knowl­edge­ably and most impor­tant­ly, enjoy yourself!

1. Be pos­i­tive and con­fi­dent — Talk about all the pos­i­tive things in farm­ing and the coun­try­side, they will drown out the dif­fi­cult questions.

2. Be open, cheer­ful and share your pas­sion for farm­ing and the land.

3. Keep it sim­ple, inter­est­ing and hon­est — Share inter­est­ing facts and infor­ma­tion, clear­ly and sim­ply. Be hon­est but think about how graph­ic you make what you say.

4. Think about your reac­tion – be pre­pared, polite, con­fi­dent and engag­ing and what­ev­er you do, don’t be defensive.

5. Why have they asked the ques­tion — Remem­ber that the per­son ask­ing may not have an angle for the dif­fi­cult ques­tion, they may just be inter­est­ed in the top­ic, par­tic­u­lar­ly if it’s relat­ed to an issue or a mis­con­cep­tion that’s fre­quent­ly aired.

6. Respect that oth­er peo­ple have their own perspective.

7. Keep your cool — What­ev­er you do, don’t get heat­ed, and nev­er get into an argu­ment – this is more like­ly to hap­pen on social media than face-to-face.

8. Agree to dis­agree — As with any dif­fi­cult ques­tion, or con­ver­sa­tion, you may not reach under­stand­ing nor agree­ment, be pre­pared for this and find a way to close the con­ver­sa­tion in a polite, non-con­fronta­tion­al way, and maybe leave them with a part­ing thought; e.g. OK, you’ve left me some inter­est­ing per­spec­tives to think about, but can I leave you with just one thing to con­sid­er… if we stopped farm­ing this land, and you stopped tend­ing to your gar­den, what would they both look like in a year or 10 years’ time?”

9. Know your facts, they can clar­i­fy, dis­arm and edu­cate e.g. Why do you take a dairy cow’s calf away so soon? Dairy cows are kept for pro­duc­ing milk and their calves are reared by hand (name of per­son), just as you may have seen on zoo doc­u­men­taries. We rear the female calves to join the herd as dairy cows, when they are old­er, and the male calves are reared by anoth­er farmer for the beef market.

10. Choose your words — Think about the words that you use – in farm­ing we are quite com­fort­able with words like shed, genet­ics and inten­sive, but they con­jure up the wrong image – instead use build­ing, breed­ing and housed. Think about the ter­mi­nol­o­gy you use, see word replace­ments link.

11. Use anal­o­gy and metaphor to describe how things are or how they work – for exam­ple, a healthy soil acts like a sponge, the feed mix­er is like a big Ken­wood Chef pro­duc­ing a mix that’s not dis­sim­i­lar to mues­li, or farm­ing is life.

12. Don’t use farm­ing jar­gon — Avoid using farm­ing jar­gon or ter­mi­nol­o­gy e.g. she’s got a swollen bag, we’ll put this ani­mal away, we’ll run them through the crush… they can sound bru­tal, or they don’t explain what you’re try­ing to tell them.

13. Who’s ask­ing? Think about who you’re talk­ing to and what their terms of ref­er­ence are, if you don’t know what they are, start by hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion with them, to find out more about them, then tai­lor the con­ver­sa­tion towards their interests/​understanding. For exam­ple, a keen rose gar­den­er will under­stand fly­ing pests like aphids, a veg­etable gar­den­er will under­stand crop dis­ease and a moth­er will under­stand giv­ing birth and mastitis.

14. Under­stand the group — For a big group, it’s still impor­tant to under­stand their terms of ref­er­ence, so ask some per­ti­nent ques­tions to deter­mine their interests/​under­stand­ing. For exam­ple, has any­one vis­it­ed a farm before? Are there any keen gar­den­ers on the group? Has any­one vis­it­ed a zoo before? [NFU sheets questions]

15. Tell sto­ries – all humans like sto­ries – the sto­ry of a cow fam­i­ly, the sto­ry of the year, the sto­ry of the farm, your love of the place, the sto­ry about a species of bird, the food sto­ry e.g. from here our milk goes to…

16. For the chil­dren — Think about how chil­dren might want to learn and tai­lor your approach accord­ing­ly, let­ting them try and touch things, make things and do things. Tell them a story.

17. Show and tell – show­ing peo­ple objects or places in per­son, on film or in pic­tures tells the sto­ry bet­ter than any expla­na­tion. For exam­ple, dig a hole to show the soil, dig up some pota­toes in the field

18. Give it a go — Allow peo­ple to try things them­selves, for exam­ple, milk­ing a goat, feed­ing a calf, putting on clusters.

19. Build you con­fi­dence — If you aren’t con­fi­dent to deal with cer­tain ques­tions, do some research and show, or use, some­one else’s response to the dif­fi­cult ques­tion e.g. Farm­ing is Mag­ic, Adam Hen­son on Coun­try­file. Also, ask your­self, what might a non-farm­ing per­son want to know and prac­tice answer­ing the dif­fi­cult ques­tions you think of.

20. Peo­ple relate to the right peo­ple — Peo­ple relate to dif­fer­ent genders/​ages dif­fer­ent­ly, so con­sid­er involv­ing oth­er peo­ple to tell the sto­ry e.g. your teenage son to talk to children/​fellow teenagers, your wife or Mum to talk about calf rear­ing, your granny to tell peo­ple about the sto­ry of wheat, includ­ing a bak­ing demo.


Top tips: https://​www​.farmingis​mag​ic​.co​.uk/​t​o​p​-​tips/

Telling your sto­ries:‑tips-to-telling-your-farm-s-story

Deal­ing with dif­fi­cult questions.

What do you do if you have a mis­in­formed, vocal activist on a farm visit?

Respond­ing to ques­tions on the impact of farm­ing on birds, bees and wildlife

How do you com­mu­ni­cate about the weath­er, bad or good? 

Some­times vis­i­tors can ask tricky ques­tions. They are like­ly to be dri­ven by gen­uine inter­est, with no hid­den agen­da, but it is impor­tant to be able to respond to them well and positively. 

We have put togeth­er some fre­quent­ly posed ques­tions and sug­gest­ed respons­es here.

Farming is Magic

Sup­port­ed by:

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