Thursday, 23 February 2012

Farmers get social at NFU 2012

The NFU Conference came to town this week, with over 1,000 farmers and key industry stakeholders from around the country descending on the ICC in Birmingham for the first time.

Anyone who has attended the conference will know that it is a great advertisement for agriculture: a well-run and professional event with some heavyweight speakers which puts farming on a par with any other major UK industry.

Although the amount of tweed and corduroy on display may have done little to change people’s preconceptions about farmers, the way that organisers and delegates embraced new and social media certainly did.

Those who weren’t able to be at the event could watch all of the main conference sessions from the comfort of their armchair through the live streaming on the NFU website, accompanied by lively commentary on Twitter on all aspects of the conference from the finer points of European Commission Agriculture Commissioner Dacian CioloĊŸ’s presentation on the CAP to the pattern of Agriculture Minister Jim Paice’s socks (stripey apparently).

The fact that on the first day of the conference #NFU12 was trending at number two in the UK on Twitter, meaning it was the second most talked about subject on Twitter after Pancake Day, is testament to how the agricultural community has engaged with social media, and the buzz that the industry can create when everyone is focussed on the same thing.

Economist Sean Rickard caused some controversy in the conference’s final question and answer session when he called for farmers to stand up and speak for one of the most vital industries in the country, but the point he was making was a valid one: If we don’t sell our industry, then why should anyone do it for us?

Events such as the NFU conference and the campaigns talked about in last week’s blog - The steak bouquet and the value of great PR – all play their part in shaping public opinion of our industry. We need to use all the tools at our disposal to convince consumers that UK agriculture is worthy of their support and, most importantly, their investment.