I need farmers! Just Farmers!

** Former BBC Countryfile director and Nuffield Scholar calls on ordinary farmers to engage with the media on big issues in farming **

** £20,000 funding to bridge the disconnect between farmers and the mainstream media **

A groundbreaking new project is looking for farmers willing to open up their farms, and their hearts, to the media.

‘Just Farmers’ is recruiting a diverse group of livestock producers, arable farmers and fruit and vegetable growers from around the UK willing to talk openly to the media.

The aim is to build confidence among farmers and growers and improve their communication skills; while helping journalists and programme-makers find independent case studies willing to talk when a story breaks; even if the context is negative or controversial.

Just Farmers is open to every type of farm and farmer whether they are large or small scale; organic or conventional; raising livestock indoors or outdoors.

The project’s founder, journalist and broadcaster, Anna Jones said: “They will farm in different ways but share common values – believing in the importance of open communication, championing their own farm without criticising others and speaking from the heart as individuals, not industry lobbyists. I really want farmers who believe in that mission to get in touch.”

Farmer’s daughter 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 to focus on Just Farmers, but still works for the BBC in a freelance capacity.

Anna came up with the idea during her Nuffield Farming Scholarship in 2017, while studying the coverage of agriculture in the mainstream media.

“What I found was deep distrust between rural farming communities and a metropolitan, ‘metro-centric’ news media,” said Anna. “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, Anna’s ‘Just Farmers’ make a commitment to openness and transparency – being available for interview and allowing the media on to their farms. They will speak as individual ‘case studies’, providing on-the-ground testimony and personal insight.

Just Farmers 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.

Anna said: “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!”

Trustee David Gardner said: “The Frank Parkinson Agricultural Trust is delighted to support Anna’s initiative and we hope that a group of independent farmers who are willing to talk to the press about their own farms without criticising others will help bridge the gap between the rural and urban communities.”

The first ‘crop’ of Just Farmers will be selected from around the UK, representing the following farming sectors:

Arable (conventional) • Arable (organic) • Dairy (housed) • Dairy (grass-based) • Pigs (indoor) • Pigs (outdoor) • Poultry (indoor/enriched colony) • Poultry (free-range/extensive) • Beef • Sheep • Horticulture (conventional) • Horticulture (organic)

There will be just 12 farmers in each group, and the workshops will run twice a year – generating 24 ‘Just Farmers’ annually. The first workshops will run after harvest in September.

Farmers interested in joining Just Farmers should email Anna directly on: anna@justfarmers.co.uk

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