By Patrick Hurst
Agriculture must do more as an industry to connect with the general public, farmers who took part in Countryfile Live have said.
The BBC hosted the event over four days last week which included, with the help of AHDB, teams of farmers from all sectors taking part in an ‘Ask A Farmer’ part of the show, which provided the chance for the general public to engage directly with producers.
The event, held in the grounds of Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, attracted more than 80,000 people.
Despite some backlash on Twitter from farmers who disagreed with what they saw as ’Countryfile’s urban-centric portrayal’ of the countryside, a number of farmers who did attend praised the event, which has already been pencilled in for August 2017.
Cumbria farmer and current president of the Shorthorn Society, James Robinson, attended as a member of Team Dairy.
He praised the organisers for attracting a ’different crowd’ of people.
He said: “I was surprised at the thirst for knowledge from the public. It was great to connect with the consumers and it exceeded all expectations.”
Andrew Powers, a sheep farmer from Herefordshire, was a volunteer in the sheep tent on the day.
He said: “We were able to engage with the public and have some really positive conversations. It is vital for the industry as a whole that we begin to form closer relationships with the consumers.”
The Adam’s Farm zone generated huge interest throughout the weekend, housing rare breeds and animal livestock.
James Metcalfe, a National Trust farmer from Edale, in the Peak District, was also part of the Team Sheep section.
He said: “The public were fantastic. People of all ages came and asked interesting questions. I personally spoke to over 1,000 people and it was really beneficial to engage with them all sorts of issues.”
He also called for the event to act as a ‘springboard’ to greater consumer interaction.
He added: “The fact that there were only commercial lambs on show was not a true reflection of the industry. We must use this as a springboard to connect further with the public and we will get there eventually.”