A new project launched by a former BBC radio presenter Anna Jones, is aiming to get farmers more comfortable talking to the media.
Jones, who used to direct Countryfile and present Radio 4’s Farming Today, started her initiative Just Farmers after struggling to find farmers willing to talk on issues due to a ‘highly politicised’ climate.
She came up with the idea during her Nuffield Farming Scholarship in 2017, while studying the coverage of agriculture in the mainstream media and hopes it will bolster coverage of rural issues, negative and positive.
“What I found was deep distrust between rural farming communities and a metropolitan, ‘metro-centric’ news media,” said Jones. “They just don’t get each other and that often makes farmers really defensive and closed off, and can lead to simplistic or one-sided reporting.”
She added: “I know from my years on Countryfile that it’s getting harder and harder to persuade farmers, particularly those running large scale or intensive systems, to go on the record. They are scared of saying the wrong thing or being targeted by activists. That is not free speech – something I passionately believe in - so I decided to do something about it.”
After a series of practical media education workshops, Jones’ Just Farmers make a commitment to openness and transparency - being available for interview and allowing the media on to their farms.
The project is being funded initially by a £20,000 bursary from the Frank Parkinson Agricultural Trust, a charity aimed at supporting the improvement and welfare of British agriculture.
Jones added: “I can’t tell you how grateful I am. The Trust’s support has made this whole thing possible. It’s going to be a busy summer travelling the UK searching for farmers and running the workshops. I can’t wait to see who I’ll meet along the way.”