The lack of education about agriculture among the general public is having a major impact on how people perceive farmers, animal welfare and awareness of where their food comes from, writes Lucy Jeyes.
I am someone who is passionate about agriculture and am currently studying a degree in agri-business.
I am also chairperson of the National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs (NFYFC) youth forum and, like so many others, am disappointed by the misinformation I see shared on social media and in the wider press about farming.
Claims made by people with aggressive, emotionally charged beliefs about animal farming are increasing, leading to more people being misinformed about the realities of farming and food production.
Farming practices involving animals are being misinterpreted and left unchallenged. Recently, the press has targeted cattle in terms of climate change, with little or no opposing views represented.
The majority of people will read a story online and accept this as fact rather than independently researching all aspects of the topic.
Information that is not impartially presented is then spread through social media showing outlooks on farming that are unexplained and largely out of context, which can be damaging when viewed as a member of the public with limited awareness, overlooking good deeds such as shearing sheep as it is seen as abusive.
Consumers need to understand the pressure that is put on farmers to supply the rising population while working to UK farming policies.
By having awareness that other countries have different trading standards and animal welfare policies, the public view of British farmers would be more informed to make decisions about the food they eat.
Purchasers need to understand the importance of backing local farmers to help reduce global warming, decrease air mileage and their carbon footprint.
People should have an educated understanding of where their food comes from, which ones are good for them and how they are produced.
Many children and some adults currently believe food comes from the supermarket and do not think about the actual producers. From primary age, field to fork education should be a part of the national curriculum as a fundamental part of a child’s learning.
This should involve trips to see farmers and growers, understanding how food gets from the farm to their plate and the farming practices involved.
As children then move in to secondary education this would also provide the chance to experience crop production, understanding the process of caring for animals and farming as a business with the associated careers.
Everyone should have a right to be aware of what food they are eating and how to cook from raw materials. This skill could reduce obesity and diabetes statistics as they can be made aware of the different healthier, non-processed alternatives.
More needs to be done to educate the facts. But how can you encourage more people from non-farming backgrounds if it is not talked about? That is one of the many reasons NFYFC actively supports Open Farm Sunday and the NFU has a stem programme running in schools.
However, more needs to be done to educate the real facts to the wider population.