The new regional chairman of the National Farmers’ union says the organisation needs to reconnect with its members.
Richard Harris, an arable and sheep farmer from Overstone Grange, near Moulton, takes over as chairman in Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and Rutland from the end of February from Market Harborough’s Chris Parker.
Richard’s 1000-acre farm’s enterprises include wheat, oilseed rape, barley and oats and a flock of 200 half-bred ewes put to Suffolk rams. All his crops are grown for human consumption and he is well known as a keen supporter of livestock markets, having battled to save the ill-fated market at Northampton. Now, all his lambs are sold through Thrapston market and he is currently the chairman of the Northampton Primestock Club.
He said: “The re-deployment of NFU staff for the counties, introduced last November, will have a significant effect on how our members see their organisation. Our new county adviser, Carol Puddephatt will be driving forward a county connection plan to re-connect NFU with its members, locally.
“NFU members may not think it themselves, but they are the backbone of the NFU and we need to encourage many more to be involved, in whatever way they can. I want to ensure that farmers understand fully what the NFU can bring to their businesses and how important farmers’ views are to the NFU, in return. As with any business, there is little spare time to give to things that aren’t at the top of the agenda, but I hope that our plan will help to bring NFU and its work into sharper focus.
“NFU involvement goes in cycles and one of my aims during my two years as chairman is to bring our younger farmers into closer contact with their NFU. Farmers in their twenties and early thirties are involved in running their own farm businesses, so we need to engage more fully with them. Perhaps some new ways of keeping in touch, by Twitter and Facebook etc, and by moving our meetings around the county, will encourage them to become more involved.
“Another objective of mine is to promote the environmental work that farmers do on their farm land. The Campaign for the Farmed Environment, which is now just over three years old, has achieved great things with farmers voluntarily converting land to benefit wildlife and the environment. With the possibility that the CAP reforms later this year will affect how environmental work is done, it is vital that our industry promotes its excellent work not just to politicians and stakeholder organisations, but to the public, too.
“Open Farm Sunday on June 9 this year, is an ideal opportunity for farmers to throw open their gates and invite our customers, the public, to find out what we do, not just to produce top quality food, but to care for the environment and wildlife, as well.”