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Public engagement 'vital' if food and farming industry is to prosper

The importance of engaging the public with food and farming was top of the agenda at the LEAF conference held at Sainsbury’s headquarters in London this week.


Lauren   Dean

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"Our customers tell us the most important logo on that pack is the Union Jack."

Beth Hart, Head of Technical - Fresh foods, Sainsbury's Stores Ltd

The judgement of consumers is increasingly important as they strive to know where and how their food is sourced.

 

This was the suggestion from Sainsbury’s head of fresh foods Beth Hart, during her address at the LEAF public engagement conference yesterday (September 12).

 

“Our customers tell us the most important logo on that pack is the Union Jack. They tell us the presence of a Union Jack on the front of the pack is a lightning bolt,” she said.

 

“And that lightning bolt is an indication that not only do we source British, that we look after British farmers – they believe the product is probably fresher and better quality, and will probably taste better.”

 

The claims came after LEAF’s successful Open Farm Sunday which highlighted a positive change in public perception for the industry.

 

Michael Winter OBE, Professor of land economy and society said: “What we eat is so much more significant than any other things we consume in terms of our sense of understanding of ourselves – we are naturally concerned about what goes inside us.

“This great concern for quality, for health, and it's a very fluent changeable concern which when it comes to engaging is very important. We have a possibility as an industry of really beginning to influence and trying to push things in the right direction.”

 

Attendees heard how the popularity of farmers is increasing but the industry has a duty to promote a positive message to influence the public on what they need but to also say thank you. Experts said that in order to create a legacy for landscapes and the countryside the industry must better inform the public through education and collaboration.

 

National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs (NFYFC) chairman Chris Manley said: “Some would say quite challenging, some would say an opportunity, but what's clear is that we need to give a clear and positive message and celebrate our great British nutritious food that we produce with high welfare standards and good sound environmental production as well.”

 

Farming and countryside education chairman Ian Piggott OBE hammered home the importance of farm collaboration with teachers and children. He said the industry could only create a legacy for landscapes and the countryside for the British consumer through initiatives like the Countryside Classroom.

 

“I will continue to say education I still believe is the bed rock of future public engagement exercises.”

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