What is Just Farmers?
It’s a communications project aimed at improving openness and transparency in British agriculture, while helping members of the media broaden their rural contacts base.
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.
As programme makers, we were regularly bumping into this problem ourselves so we decided to do something to help. Just Farmers is a kind of free ‘casting agency’ for farmers; somewhere journalists can find good talkers without a hidden agenda or rehearsed message. We are building a diverse network of independent farmers, representing the many sectors and systems of British agriculture. Just Farmers brings their voices together and helps colleagues in the media find case studies willing to speak from personal, visible, tangible experience.
How is it funded?
Just Farmers is not-for-profit and was made possible thanks to a £20,000 bursary in 2018 from the Frank Parkinson Agricultural Trust, a charity aimed at supporting the improvement and welfare of British agriculture. In 2019 we successfully applied for a grant from the Prince's Countryside Fund and were awarded £20,000 to cover the cost of eight workshops. We also received a charitable grant of £5,000 for three years from the Mercer Family Charitable Foundation, which we are enormously grateful for.
How will it work?
Just Farmers are selected in small groups, twice a year, and represent the following farming sectors:
- Dairy (housed)
- Dairy (grass-based)
- Pigs (indoor)
- Pigs (outdoor)
- Poultry (indoor/enriched colony)
- Poultry (free-range)
- Smallholding / market garden
The farmers attend a series of workshops to help them understand how the media works, build their confidence and communication skills and familiarise them with interview situations.
What kind of farmers are you looking for?
Just Farmers are unknowns. And we mean that in the nicest possible way! They are not senior office holders in farm unions or trade organisations; they are not celebrities or media personalities. They are literally Just Farmers.
This is about helping the media reach farmers and growers they would otherwise struggle to find. So if you’re already writing a regular column, or have been interviewed on national TV and radio numerous times, or present a programme, or have thousands of followers on Twitter – then you don’t need our help. You’re already flying – and please keep doing what you’re doing!
But for those who want to engage with the media in a constructive way, but may feel reluctant, nervous or unsure about sticking their head above the parapet, or just haven’t had the opportunity – this could be for you.
In short, if you feel voices like yours aren’t being heard in the mainstream media – now’s the time to step forward.
Why can’t you work with the NFU or another industry body to do this?
This is not an industry initiative. The NFU and other farming organisations are doing the vital job of promoting British agriculture and making sure the industry’s voice is heard at the top of Government.
This is different. Just Farmers is not a form of marketing, promotion, lobbying or advertising. It is non-political and does not promote one farming system over another. There is no rehearsed message and the farmers are free to say what they like, to who they like.
There are just two rules, providing a guiding light:
- Just Farmers do not promote their own farm by putting down someone else’s.
- Just Farmers speak as individuals. They do not speak on behalf of industry.
Can ‘Just Farmers’ be NFU members?
Of course! We appreciate that most farmers and growers are members of unions and/or trade associations. So where’s the cut off? Well, if you speak publicly on behalf of an organisation, either at regional or national meetings, or in the media, then you are already batting for a team. You could find yourself conflicted in an interview situation which is why we ask only grassroots members apply for Just Farmers. This also applies to the top tier of the National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs (NFYFC), but not at a regional level (including Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland). We are very keen to hear from young farmers. It’s also OK if you’ve previously held office at a farming organisation, as long as you have stepped back from those responsibilities and any active lobbying.
How do I apply?
We’d love to hear from you! Please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
We are now busy recruiting the fourth group of Just Farmers. We ask those who volunteer to fill in a questionnaire, so we can learn more about you and your farm. Selection will happen in plenty of time for the workshop in March 2020. Download the questionnaire here.