Farmers on film

What it is, where it came from and why we love you to be part of the conversation this year at the Worlds Largest Cheese Show in Nantwich

So honored to be asked to write this blog and sometimes I wish had kept a written record of the trails, tribulations and tears that have be shed in shear frustration and laughter of trying to getting the idea of farmers on film understood!

It was back in late 2009 when I found out that the London Olympic Games was looking to use British Food throughout the celebrations. I had a dream to get my oatty biscuits on to the menu as I packed them in fives, they were golden and if you put them together you could make the Olympic Rings out of them! I knew being a tiny producer it would be hard to get noticed so I had huge mugs made with names of all Olympic Committee members on it and other politicians and celebrities on to grab there attention.  However when I went to deliver them to Canary Wharf I had this crazy idea to get the farmers supplying the food at the Games to have a few seconds of fame on the big screens at the Games. I thought this would be awesome recognition for all the hard work the farmers do and would give them their moment to shine like the athletes. As with out farmers we are nothing and it would have been hugely engaging and would have given priceless memories to last a life time. I loved talking on the local radio about it as you can here in on interviews with BBC Radio Derby Radio BBC Stoke  and a behind the scenes look at the BBC Radio Shropshire interview with Ian from Shropshire Cheese company!

I tried everything to get the idea noticed and tried to get funding to help do a pilot project but none was given. So decided I had to do it myself and didn’t know how to do it but was determined to make it happen. A stroke of luck happened as Farmer Felicity from the stunning Hoe Grange Holidays came to the bakery with a flip video and showed me how easy it was to use. So next day went to buy one and learnt to film! So then it began – I had to learn how to Facebook, Tweet  make films and master YouTube! It was so painful at first but soon got the hang of it by phoning friends! When I look back to the beginning at the films we did I smile as all they were just clips.

The concept took huge leap forward when I was eating and talking on the mobile phone and had another crazy idea to see if we could get the phone to talk to the food packaging somehow. I had no clue if this would be possible – however I just started asking that question and a local company stepped forward and explained all about qr codes. Where the phone talks to the qr code and a video of the food production would come up on your phone. I instantly saw the potential for this technology given the explosion of smart phone technology happening in the public to link the public to the farmer with one zap of the phone. This was the aim of the Women in Food and Farming Union, which I was a member, to link consumer to producer so I was super excited and committed to make this vision work, spurred on by the inspiration of the Olympics.

We gained huge support rom the University of Buxton at Derby who helped do the pilot films and use if qr codes at one of the local food fairs they organised. Which was great fun and showed how passionate the local farmers came over on film, with Rickys film winning the hearts of people who watched her at many conferences I spoke about the concept.


I got huge support from Lincoln University who allowed me to talk about the idea regularly on their student broadcast station Radio Siren which if you listen back on iPod tracks the idea from start to present day. Which is awesome!

Another key breakthrough came when Staffordshire University allowed me to work with their first year student in late 2011. They were tasked with turning idea into reality and they nailed it.  These videos show what they achieved in a short space of time and their efforts were recognised by the Secretary of State for Agriculture and the whole Olympic movement by the awarding of a podium award in 2012! Which has to be one of the most proudest moments of my life. The films made by the students were a pivotal turning point in the campaign it showed the people were interested in the stories of the farmers, the films were shown at the Mitchell Arts centre during Stoke Your Fires film festival in 2012, down at the Olympic Offices in Canary Wharf, NFU HQ and many other talks and venues across the UK. What was also amazing is that our concept inspired a young masters student from Afghanistan who was training at Harper Adams University to make a film about farmers in Kabul and it gave us a rare insight in to a way of life we never really seen, it was awesome and showed the power of the Olympic legacy to create cooperation between people of different nations. We also had stunning interest from overseas too with blogs being written in Australia and Canada on our work which was awesome and hugely encouraging.

I took a break from farmers on film in the second half of the 2013 and into 2014 as a social issue affecting road safety for the blind and partially sighted people of Great Britain needed filming and I made the Sea of Change Film with a group of highly talented graduates. We held our World Premier at the House of Lords on the United Nations International Day for the Persons with Disabilities on 3rd December 2013 and the film has been selected to be show at the first ever Public Health Film Festival at University Oxford on the 28th June 2014, which is just awesome news! More news on this will follow as I just been awarded a national prize for this work, which I got keep quiet until 12th July.  I was thrilled when Charles Tassel from Agrichat tweeted me to say great news coverage when I was outside Number 10 giving in a letter to the Prime Minister to get the issue tackled.

So a few months ago I decided that I had to start organising the first ever film festival for farmers, to bring together the people in film, social media, smart phones and the farming community. I had launched it last year at the International Cheese Show Awards and I just had to get on a make it happen. Well what a whirlwind and what an inspirational time I have had doing this. As you will see from the guest speaker list, which keeps growing people have been so kind to offer to speak at the event, yesterday we had a lady called Fiona Lakes from Australia offer to be part of it and we have a Laura Sixsmith from Ireland who offered to jump on the plane to come and speak!  I am totally thrilled that we have BBC stars of the Welsh Hill Farmer, Gareth Wyn Jones  and from BBC Lambing Live, Rachel Marston, to talk, and the inspirational Alan Coxan, who is the face of Britain to the world to promote our stunning food and drinks sector. We have the NFU Dairy Chairman, Rob Harrison, talking part in the conversation and hugely talented film director who produced the stunning documentary Tune in the Blood about the lives and aspirations of young farmers in Herefordshire. Please have a sneaky peak at the line up and keep looking as I have another four key speakers to add.

To be honest I was nervous about putting the event on but after receiving an inspirational email from the inspirational Elliot Grove the founder of Raindance giving me huge support in terms of two £1000 training prizes, a free international training webair and offering live skype into event, I knew that this was going to work. Support quickly followed from Visit Britain, who are totally supporting promoting or Great British Countryside as a tourist destination, Visit England, Agri Innovation to name a few.

I promise I will stop in a minute, its just when I started talking or typing my enthusiasm runs away with me.  I just want to tell you about two of the competitions the festival is running:

–   Artisan cheese film competition open to UK and international cheese makers to show case the history, pride, passion fun and frolics of the cheese making skill

–   Social media competition with huge and small prizes to be won, the bucket list of prizes need to be updated as I got another 10 I think from Staffordshire and Derbyshire to add.  If any rural producer would like to add to it please email me as we want inspire bloggers to blog about the festival and then their winning experience! I love it that our local milkman is giving free milk away for a week!

One last thing huge thanks to Staffordshire Young Farmers who came to my stall at Staffordshire County Show to see how it was all going on as they have done for the past year and loved seeing how they have all grown up during the past four years working on this concept! Huge thanks to Anthony, the goat farmer, at the show as I got about 50 felfies of farmers holding the @farmersonfilm sign which went out on twitter. This was the second proudest moment of my life and was totally overwhelmed when they came through on twitter. Here are just some of those photos from that day! Totally inspirational and huge thanks!

Ok, that’s enough from me for the first time, and please share this blog, please share the competitions, please think about registering for the free Raindance webair filming training session and please if you can come to the festival at the Worlds Greatest Cheese Show as we want you all be part of the conversation!


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