With the holiday season done and in the past, some may be experiencing a case of the January blues, making it hard to feel valued. Psychologists say that connecting with other people can help overcome this feeling, while others set themselves to a little forward planning.
The answer, however, may lie in a combination of both.
Everyone likes to feel appreciated, but it’s hard for anyone to show that appreciation if they don’t really understand who you are, what you do, what you contribute, and where your value lies.
And where food producers are concerned, it has been all too easy for the vacuum created by a lack of visibility and knowledge to be filled with old myths and clichés about how badly farmers treat their animals, how they are pumped full of chemicals, and other horrors. These depressing misconceptions are disappointingly widespread, even among those who really ought to know better.
So if you are a poultry or any other type of food producer what can you do?
There are several open farm schemes, under which the public is invited “on-farm” to see the realities of modern food production, and one such scheme is the U.K.’s Open Farm Sunday, due to take place again in June.
Open Farm Sunday started 13 years ago and has seen almost 2,000 farmers open their gates to more than 2.2 million visitors since. According to its organizers, Linking Environment and Farming (LEAF), the event is having a positive and lasting impact, with visitors saying that the event has changed the way they think about farming.
In addition to general feelings of appreciation, it’s worth knowing if the effort required to open to the public really has a beneficial impact, and while I don’t know if it would be possible to measure the direct business impact of such schemes on sales, surveys carried out last year of those visiting farms would suggest that the initiative was very positive.
LEAF found that 92 percent of people said they were more appreciative of the work that farmers do after visiting a farm, while 86 percent said they felt more “connected.” Although it appears some visitors did not change their minds, at least they will be able to make any judgments about food production from a more informed position.
One of last year’s poultry-producing participants noted that locals had no idea what lay behind the farm gates and that there was an expectation to see broilers in cages, adding that, over generations, the connection from farm to plate had been lost.
LEAF Open Farm Manager Annabel Shackleton notes that when farmers engage with the public, people can see for themselves high levels of welfare, for example, combating some of the misinformation about farming in the media.
So if you are feeling a little underappreciated or misunderstood, it may be worth taking a leaf out of the Open Farm Sunday book, plan ahead a little, invite people in and consider letting consumers know what you actually do. We all might feel better for it.