The 'Beast from the East' was public relations gold for agri and food sectors
The recent 'Beast from the East' weather front resulted in surprisingly good press for the farmers and agriculture in general.
First, there was the highly publicised rush to purchase bread. Later images emerged of farmers clearing snow from roads and generously giving of their time to assist road users, particularly emergency vehicles.
Finally, reports of farmers braving the elements to feed livestock, milk cows and protect farm buildings all combined to educate the general public on the importance of the farmer in our community. This is public relations gold for our industry.
I have met and worked with farmers in many countries and the public perception of them and, by default, agriculture surprisingly differs a lot from country to country. Take Britain for example. There, dairy farmers lock the entrances to their farms and the doors of their livestock housing in fear of animal welfare activists entering and recording images.
Last summer, I visited the farm of JF Cobb & Sons in Dorset who have a large dairy farm where the cows are in a confinement system, i.e. milked indoors 365 days a year.
The Cobb Family have been farming since 1928, but their whole world came crashing down when a video taken by an animal welfare group using a drone to fly over the calf rearing unit went viral in March 2017.
To dairy farmers, the calves in the video clip were exceptionally well reared but to the general public, images of rearing calves in individual hutches were comparable to leaving your children at home locked in a playpen all day while you go to work.
Social media and the tabloid newspapers milked the story for all it was worth, with frightening headlines and articles.