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…

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!