Just Farmers was set up in 2018 by journalist and broadcaster Anna Jones. A farmer’s daughter from the Welsh Borders, Anna covered rural affairs at the BBC for 12 years, directing BBC One’s Countryfile and producing and presenting Radio 4’s Farming Today, On Your Farm and Costing the Earth. She left the corporation in April 2018 to focus on Just Farmers, but still works for the BBC in a freelance capacity.
In 2016/17 Anna did a Nuffield Farming Scholarship, looking at the coverage of agriculture in news and current affairs. She identified a deep disconnect between farming communities and the mainstream, predominantly urban media; driven mostly by a lack of trust and transparency. It sparked the idea for Just Farmers – a way of connecting two very different worlds in a way that benefits both.
Journalists, radio producers and TV researchers work hard to find good interviewees. It’s not easy – especially when you’re on deadline. And it’s getting harder to persuade farmers, particularly those running large scale or intensive systems, to go on the record. Many are afraid of saying something wrong or being targeted by activists.
Anna was bumping into this problem regularly in her work at the BBC and found herself wishing there was some kind of ‘casting agency’ for farmers; somewhere journalists could find good talkers without a hidden agenda or rehearsed message. It would be a diverse network, representing the many sectors and systems of British agriculture. Independent voices speaking from personal, visible, tangible experience.
As part of her Nuffield Scholarship Anna travelled to France and found the extra inspiration she was looking for – a similar project being run by the French dairy industry, and working brilliantly. It was the proof she needed that Just Farmers could work.
In April 2018 Anna pitched her idea to the Frank Parkinson Agricultural Trust and won a £20,000 bursary to get the project off the ground. We are so grateful for the Trust’s support and hope this is just the beginning. It’s going to be an exciting journey - please join us!