Disease? Not On My Farm! Ambassador Blog
Tips for selling the farm to fork story
Derbyshire tenant farmers, Tori and Ben Stanley, run a low input, high welfare rearing system, creating produce to sell in their award winning farm shop. They passionately believe in a farm to fork approach and Tori shares her five top tips on how best to positively promote British farming to consumers.
1. Higher welfare is key
In our farming system we prioritise the health of our sheep and cattle through a proactive approach. This means, we’re committed to regular health monitoring and preventative management.
Our breeding stock are run as a closed herd and kept completely separate from any animals brought in for finishing. All stores are routinely blood tested for infectious diseases which is vital in my opinion and helps to give us peace of mind. I think it’s important to regularly monitor for any emerging problems and maintaining high health standards.
We work closely with Scarsdale Vets on herd and flock health planning to make sure we’re able to adapt to any disease challenges. All these measures underpin animal productivity, as well as the long-term profitability and sustainability of our farm business.
2. Be proactive
Having the farm shop provides us with a perfect platform to engage with the public. We’ve created a welcoming environment where consumers can ask questions about our farm and how our meat is produced.
Having well-trained and approachable staff is essential, so they all share our passion for high quality, home-grown and reared produce.
New customers typically have a couple of initial questions about what kind of life the animal lived, whether it has been outside and whether it has been fed correctly and treated well. They’re usually satisfied quite quickly once we answer their questions.
We explain that we farm responsibly, looking after animals as individuals and treating them with medicines if needed. Meat probably doesn’t need to be in every meal but our British systems are sustainable because of our topography – we live in the best grass-growing country on earth.
Since the pandemic people are much more interested in buying local and gaining a better understanding of how their food is produced. It’s important that, as farmers, we inform consumers about all the positives of farming and why we produce food in the way we do. People are buying into the stories and pictures about their food via social media so if you sell directly, it makes sense to have an online presence to keep the public better informed.
Ultimately consumers want to trust the integrity of their purchases. I think Jeremy Clarkson’s TV series has been the first to deliver wide-scale consumer engagement in a way that is funny, factual and real. We can all build on the interest that Clarkson’s Farm has sparked.
3. Showcase your hard work
As a family we all enjoy showing our Longhorn cattle, and Jacob and Texel sheep at county and regional agricultural events. For this year’s show season, we also introduced our Border Leicesters which have done really well, including winning overall breed champion at the Great Yorkshire Show which was such a thrill.
Going to shows with our pedigrees is a great opportunity to communicate how proud we are of our animals and champion British agriculture to a wider audience. It’s also a great way for our own children to learn valuable life skills, competing as young handlers.
Nothing beats the sense of achievement when you receive recognition for the hard work that’s been invested in your livestock.
4. Find like-minded partners
Surround yourself with people who share your values and ethos. From staff, customers to your business partners and suppliers, it’s good to identify those who will keep you buoyed up and help you reach your goals.
We’ve started working collaboratively with two local dairy farms as we can’t produce enough beef to supply our customers from 70 suckler cows. We’re piloting putting our two beef bulls into the dairy herds and bringing back the progeny as weaned calves. Both the dairy farms share our high welfare standards which is fundamental to the partnership working.
As Disease? Not On My Farm! ambassadors, we also have regular roundtables with our fellow ambassadors and share our thoughts and learnings. Having constructive conversation with others is really beneficial.
5. Educate the public
The most important people to communicate with are children. They’re the next generation of consumers so we need to ensure they’re properly educated about farming. We usually host between five and 10 school visits each year, giving young people the opportunity to experience happy, healthy animals and make the connection between them and the tasty produce that’s available in our farm shop.
Often it is the child’s first time on a farm and if they can go away having learned just one or two key things, you’ve achieved something. It’s very rewarding.
We quickly realised that just being on the farm can be mind-blowing for them. On one visit there was a child who normally wouldn’t say anything or get involved at school, whose face just came alive when Ben got the children to give the cows a rub.
It’s the simple things that matter and we all have a role to play in working together to sell the farm to fork story and promote the best of British agriculture.