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Time to Speak Out - transforming ideas and championing change

On the 24th April, LEAF will be taking to the road for its Speak Out Roadshow, visiting ten locations across the UK offering communications masterclasses to farmers and researchers. Ahead of the trip, we catch up with Alice Midmer, LEAF’s Demonstration and Innovation Manager who shares her thoughts on why, more than ever, it is time to speak out for British farming…

Think­ing about it, com­mu­ni­ca­tion is at the heart of what I do at LEAF. At its sim­plest, I spend most days com­mu­ni­cat­ing with farm­ers. That’s not just me talk­ing about Inte­grat­ed Farm Man­age­ment and how it can sup­port more sus­tain­able farm­ing, it is me lis­ten­ing and learn­ing from farm­ers, shar­ing ideas, and hear­ing about their chal­lenges and suc­cess­es. Com­mu­ni­ca­tion – whether that’s hav­ing a chat about the lat­est direct drilling approach out in the field, stand­ing up and giv­ing a pre­sen­ta­tion on bet­ter water man­age­ment at a con­fer­ence, writ­ing a report or through social media – it is all about communication. 

Dri­ving change through effec­tive communication

Com­mu­ni­ca­tion informs, moti­vates, advo­cates and enter­tains. Essen­tial­ly it dri­ves change. It trans­forms peo­ple ideas and mis­con­cep­tions. It illu­mi­nates and inspires. It chal­lenges. Now, more than ever, farm­ers and researchers, need to be speak­ing out about British Farm­ing. Whilst the uncer­tain­ties around Brex­it con­tin­ue, one thing looks cer­tain: the new Agri­cul­ture Bill will see sup­port for farm­ers mov­ing away from pro­duc­tion to a sys­tem based on what we as an indus­try deliv­er. That’s not just food, it is the huge range of pub­lic ser­vices that farm­ers are respon­si­ble for – pro­duc­tive soils, clean water and air, a well-man­aged coun­try­side, rich in bio­di­ver­si­ty, pub­lic access to the countryside.

Let’s start talking

We all com­mu­ni­cate. The key is how effec­tive we are in get­ting our mes­sages heard, our sto­ries lis­tened to. A lot of farm­ers and researchers are fan­tas­tic com­mu­ni­ca­tors, hap­py to stand up in front of a crowd, give pre­sen­ta­tions, write a blog, pro­fi­cient on social media. But for many it is a daunt­ing prospect and some­thing they would rather leave to some­one else.

But when the going gets tough, improv­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills becomes even more impor­tant dur­ing dif­fi­cult times. We need to start talk­ing. To reach out to the pub­lic so they under­stand what we as an indus­try deliv­er and we can’t leave that to the com­mu­ni­ca­tion experts’. It is down to us.

But what are the essen­tial ingre­di­ents in a recipe for good com­mu­ni­ca­tion? Here’s a few basic ingre­di­ents to get you thinking: 

A large help­ing of commitment

Start­ing point is real­is­ing there is a chal­lenge to be addressed and mak­ing the com­mit­ment to do some­thing about it – how­ev­er small. Whether it is host­ing a farm walk, writ­ing to your local news­pa­per, doing a pre­sen­ta­tion or get­ting savvy on social media – it all matters. 

A morsel of what you do best

Find the best way to com­mu­ni­cate that works for you. You might flour­ish in face to face sit­u­a­tions but fal­ter when it comes to putting your thoughts down on paper. You may sparkle in a for­mal set­ting but your lights may dim in a social, chat­ti­er set­ting. Take the time to dis­cov­er what works for you. 

A dol­lop of honesty

Lack of hon­esty sours good com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Sus­pi­cion and mis­trust are all bar­ri­ers that stop your mes­sages being heard. Let’s tell our farm­ing sto­ries as they are – open people’s eyes to the prob­lems you encounter on a dai­ly basis, as well as the joys of farm­ing. Being open will engen­der respect, trust and under­stand­ing in the job of farming. 

A sprin­kling of silence

Anoth­er prized ingre­di­ent is the abil­i­ty to lis­ten. Real­ly lis­ten. Peo­ple are inter­est­ed in how their food is pro­duced, where it comes from and the peo­ple behind it. They have an appetite to learn more. Lis­ten­ing oils the wheels’ of effec­tive communication. 

A pinch of you

Tell your sto­ry – as it is. Peo­ple want to know what moti­vates you, what makes you do the job you do, what led you to where you are today. Its these per­son­al sto­ries which will res­onate with peo­ple and get that vital con­nec­tion going which will make your mes­sages much more like­ly to be heard – and remem­bered. As with all good recipes, keep it sim­ple and con­cen­trate on the mat­ter in hand. And come to a Speak Out Work­shop to learn and hone your skills and be inspired by others. 

LEAF’s Speak Out Road­show of com­mu­ni­ca­tions skills work­shops runs from the 24th April to the 10th May. You will learn what you need to com­mu­ni­cate in per­son, through farm vis­its, pre­sen­ta­tions and talks, on paper, online, in the media and through pho­tos, film and social media. Sign up today here.

We look for­ward to see­ing you on a farm, in a lab, barn or vil­lage hall near you!