10 July 2010 - Let’s Take the Country to Town

Very often we think the challenges facing farmers and ranchers in the United States are unique to this country. Then we welcome a foreign visitor or we travel to a foreign country and suddenly find that, no, the challenges facing food producers around the world are quite similar.

Recently, Caroline Stocks, a reporter for a major farm magazine in the United Kingdom spent some time in my office. She brought along a copy of the magazine entitled Farmer’s Weekly and the front-page headlines told me that farmers in England face the same challenges we do; “How the national budget affects farmers”; “Large-scale dairies public relations battle”. Among several columns in the magazine, I found one written by a farmer, Guy Smith, who farms about 1250 acres in the United Kingdom, a sizeable farm in that country. His column was entitled ‘Let’s Work Together and Take the Country to Town’.

He wrote about a sad event that occurred in the United Kingdom this year. For the first time since 1839, the Royal Agricultural Show near Stoneleigh was not held, cancelled because of low attendance and lack of interest. The show goes back to the days of Charles Dickens and generations of families had attended every year to witness an international display of livestock, horses and agricultural equipment. I attended the Royal Agriculture Show several times in the 80's and 90's and found it to be an absolutely fascinating show attended by thousands of farmers and city folks, as well as members of the Royal Family.

While many people mourn the loss of the show and wish it could be revived, Guy Smith writes “The fact is, now our nation’s greatest industry goes without a showcase.” So, he suggested a plan that deals with what?...telling the story of English farmers to city people. He said “Let’s take a look at what farmers did in Paris for a couple of days. The Avenue de Champs-Elysees was turned into a breathtaking farm scape; thousands of French farmers recreated farms in the heart of Paris.”

Guy then asks, “Why can’t we do something similar in London? It strikes me over the past few years we have become far more pro-active in promoting ourselves, but we haven’t taken our show to London. With the Royal Agriculture Show gone, it’s time we do that,” because, he said “we as agricultural producers need to gain more understanding of city people for what we do in this country.” Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Since agriculture and its challenges are truly global; perhaps we can find some global solutions and different ideas to respond to the attacks on agriculture. Let’s work on it.

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.