As I sit down to write my first ever opinion column, I feel I’m having one of those awful first-day-of-school moments, where you have to say your name and a fun fact about yourself.
Well I’m going to hold the fun fact for the time being and we’ll just stick with a name — Charlotte Cunningham, the new machinery editor here at CPM.
Perhaps my somewhat apprehensive approach to introducing myself relates to something that’s very topical and in my opinion, rather alarming.
Twitter users will have done well to avoid seeing the fiasco of the ’Ag-Elites’ saga on your feed.
To summarise for those of you who haven’t seen it, it seems that a small— but very loud – group of farmers have taken to calling out fellow forward-thinking farmers.
The comments are nasty, personal and can only be described as like a dog with a bone given their persistency to make a bee-line for any action done or opinion held by said ‘Ag-Elites’.
The farmers at the receiving end of their battlesticks are the ones who want to communicate with the public, to talk about British farming and how food is produced. They’re the ones who take time away from the farm to focus on personal and business development; such as going to farmer focus groups and attending conferences.
They’re creative with their platforms using FaceTime, podcasts and the like because, let’s face it, today’s Generation Z are more tech savvy than ever.
Despite all the good they do, according to the opposing view these ‘elitists’ aren’t ’proper’ farmers as they don’t spend every waking minute partaking in manual labour. Hmm…
As I walked around the jam-packed halls of LAMMA in January, I got thinking about these two groups of people. The red and the blue corner — the do-ers, and the unreasonably angry mob.
When you look at the kit available on the market now — whether it be the collosal new Fendt 10 or the drone scouting app, Skippy Scout — it goes without question that the ability of this technology is second to none and nothing like we’ve ever seen before.
But what got me thinking was the wonder of the people who created them — the brain power behind the innovation. Who are they? What’s their background? Who are their influences? And most importantly, what journey did they take that led them to such ground-breaking inventions?
While I don’t know these people personally, I could confidently bet your bottom dollar that those creators — the real movers and shakers — aren’t the ones bashing fellow farmers for trying to be more and do more.
Social media is a wonderful thing, but I feel this on-going row is getting rather tedious and some of the things I’ve seen lately are just downright embarrassing for an industry that’s already constantly under scrutiny.
Whether you’re a premium potato producer in Northern Ireland or a top-yielding cereal grower in East Anglia, we’re all working towards the same end goal. But I think that’s sometimes forgotten by those who judge others for breaking tradition and thinking outside the parameters of ‘it’s always been done this way’.
Farming in 2020 is about so much more than just manual labour. To survive cut-throat margins and an unpredictable season farmers are, of course, skilled physically. But to progress also requires a savvy business mind, a willingness to be open to change, embrace technology and explore what science has to offer.
As we enter further into this fourth agricultural revolution, that beckons greater skills from its workforce, I for one hope we continue to grow a sector that’s interested in nourishing minds, with individuals who’ll showcase to the public just what a wonderful job the British agriculture industry does.
When I’m having a bad day, it’s those farmers who are doing wonderful things and going above and beyond who encourage me and keep me going.
And so to that I say; long live the Ag-Elites…
Originally hailing from Devon, Charlotte Cunningham is now based in Warwicks and when not busy filling the pages of CPM, can be found exploring the countryside with two crazy spaniels in tow. @charcunningham