John Pawsey, Organic Forum Chair, is a fourth generation farmer with 645 hectares of arable land and 500 sheep. In his search for the 'average NFU member' he says...
Browsing through the pages of Direct Driller magazine (as you do) and reading an article by the Sustainable Food Trust on “How to Farm Sustainably”, I was struck by a highlighted quote from an “attendee” at last year’s magnificent Groundswell event regarding our Net Zero 2040 ambition which read, “When is someone going to break the news to the average NFU member, that Minette’s pledge means that they are going to have to stop ploughing and stop using synthetic fertilizers”.
Being a laid back kind of a chap I quickly got over the “z” in fertilisers (they probably sell the magazine in America) and the fact that we don’t all plough and don’t all use synthetic fertilisers and began thinking about who that average National Farmers Union member might be? Who are they indeed represented by and where does that averageness occur?
Being an invitee on NFU Policy Board, Council, Crops Board and Chair of the Organic Forum, I mentally endeavoured to pigeonhole the various faces around those respective tables.
Picking the Union’s representatives off in order of predictability I would probably have to start with the Organic Forum. The clue is in the name, we all share a common direction in that we are all organic. Although we can argue the toss between sectors, we can all rally around the fact that we are right and everyone else is wrong (insert smiley face), possibly similar to the feelings of the readership of Direct Driller magazine (insert laughing hysterically face)?
Number two in the typical stakes is the Crops Board. Again there’s a clue in “crops”, but you’ve got South West farmers with their tiny fields, East Anglicans with their prairies and North East farmers with their torrential rainfall and please don’t get me started on different soil types, methods of tillage or Cabbage Stem Flea Beetle hotspots as we could be here all night. Hmm, not average.
It starts getting a bit more complex when conjuring up Policy Board. Policy Board represents all the sectors and their regions. These people are no shrinking violets, hardened by the wants and needs of regional Chairs thrashed out in offices from Cornwall to Northumberland. Competing for top table’s ear to be accountable to membership is no place for your average Jo(e).
Then there’s Council, the melting pot of the NFU’s membership representatives. Every sector, region and county can have its say, it’s where new resolutions fly or fail and is ground zero for the membership to get word those who represent us. Not met anyone average in that room.
Finally, the target of our Groundswell attendee, the “average NFU member”. My travels around county boards, regional boards, national boards, forums and council have proved to me that there is no such person as an average NFU member or office holder and if there were, it would make the task of agreeing what we had to do to achieve Net Zero by 2040 a whole lot easier.
But, we have an ambition and the Organic Forum are right behind it. I don’t know about you, but being part of the largest farming organisation in England and Wales if we do get it right, can influence the Government while protecting farmers interests, we can make a real change.
Onwards and upwards.