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Farming Matters: 'This is the year to draw a line against growing negativity'

My buzzwords right now are ‘consumerism’, ‘alliances’ and ‘lines in the sand’, writes dairy farmer Abi Reader.

While not all negative, this is clearly a shame, since only a few years ago the buzzwords were mostly ‘yield from forage’, ‘calving index’ and ‘age to first calving’.

 

Obviously these are still important, but somehow this other stuff has muscled its way in.

 

Negative consumerism really bothers me, so doing something about it is key.

 

We have Open Farm Sunday, which is a really fantastic tool in the box and one I hope more farms will have a go at. But in my neck of the woods, we also have CowsOnTour.

 

This is made up of farmers and rural businesses who, once or twice a year, team up to take over a school for the day and talk about food and farming, to get some positive vibes out for the industry. We have been doing it for five years.

 

Does it work? Actually yes, I believe it does, and so 2019 is the year we have chosen to do a roadshow of five schools in five consecutive days, followed by a stand at the Smallholding and Countryside Festival at the Royal Welsh Showground.

 

The purpose of this is to gather a huge swell of positive publicity for the industry.

 

At the core of CowsOnTour is our mascot Bessie, the life-size fibreglass cow. She is doing her own tour ahead of the roadshow, with some interesting publicity stunts, the latest of which has been climbing Snowdon.


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Alliance

 

On May 4, an alliance of 75 farmers and rural businesses, including Farmers Guardian, hauled Bessie, along with a life-sized fibreglass pig and sheep, plus a giant leek and potato and a few other animals, to the summit.

 

Of course we were doing it to catch attention, and that was pretty easy to achieve since we stood out like a sore thumb.

 

But we also did it to raise money for charities the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution and the DPJ Foundation, both so important for this industry.

 

I loved every second of it. Carrying an awkward, unwieldy, 90kg cow up (and down) a steep, uneven mountain trail for a total of seven hours was truly fabulous.

 

There were moments I wondered if I was going mad, but the two guys alongside me wearing cow onesies, four people hefting a life-size pig suspended from broom handles, and a massive leek bobbing merrily along on someone’s shoulders showed me I was in good company.

And now you can catch me mid-roadshow; two schools have already been visited, with more than 1,200 children reached so far.

 

So consumerism is being addressed, and alliances are key to this, since CowsOnTour relies on volunteers and sponsors to make it work.

 

Finally, we get to the ‘line in the sand’. For me, this is the year to draw that line against what feels like growing negativity, to make our mark and make it count.

 

While I would probably prefer to be gathering my cows for milking, listening to the morning chorus with my dog by my side, I will instead be telling the farming story in a school, alongside everyone else involved.

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