Monday 12/09/16 saw the first ever leaf conference and Local Gardener was invited along to see what it was all about. “How can we make a step change in public engagement with food and farming?” was how the conference was billed, and with eight speakers and some very difficult issues in the farming community at the moment, it was sure to be a lively day.

People nowadays want to know more about where their food comes from and how it is produced. The supermarkets realise this when choosing their suppliers and the growth of farm shops would indicate that there is a section of the public that want to see for themselves where their food comes from. This is why it’s vital for growers to connect with the public and get their message across.

This, however, is not as easy as one might think as it’s all too easy to put across the wrong message when trying to connect with the public. Just take branding for example;-To use the union jack to promote local British produce or not? Does the flag have identity issues of it’s own? Does it imply that produce marked with the flag are pro Brexit?  But for all of the different issues raised  there were two things to come out of the debate for certain;

  • the isolated farmer is going to become a thing of the past
  • the transition to becoming consumer (or people as we are now to refer to them) friendly is proving difficult for some.

This is why if you are a grower and you missed this event, you should seriously think about attending the next conference. It’s not just about the morning debate. If you are looking for inspiration then look no further than the afternoon workshops where the guests had the opportunity to question successful business people about their companies in small groups. The workshops were full of experienced growers with stories of how they transformed their farms into consumer friendly businesses. Take Farmer Copleys farm shop for instance. As guests we were able to question Heather Copley about how she helped turn a small farm shop in to a business with a projected £4 million turnover employing over 50 staff, from just 90 acres! Or if you are looking for an outlet without your own farm shop you could question the UK representative from the Food Assembly.

Great hospitality from Sainsbury’s, quality speakers, useful workshop ideas and networking, and the odd celebrity thrown in (from Countryfile)

All in all, a great event and congratulations to LEAF.

 

 

 

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