The Rural Focus Group

Working as a press officer in the rural sector, I have every reason to appreciate the sector’s many strengths. I am also very aware of an overriding weakness. Lack of unity!

Too often the sector concentrates on issues that rather than on those where there is consensus.

Recognising that there is strength in unity, a year ago I formed the Rural Focus Group with the idea of holding regular (about every six weeks) meetings to discuss a topic of current interest that has impact – or reflects – on the rural sector.

Topics so far have included issues relating to various aspects of climate change, global population growth, land usage, food security, et cetera. We debate the chosen topic for an hour and are then joined by a journalist who interviews us as a group and questions us about the day’s topic.

We are achieving excellent reportage and are running regular series in four regional titles and one national. We have no difficulty in attracting journalists to our meetings and, so far, have not been turned down by anyone!

Rural Focus Group membership currently includes: CLA (Country Land and Business Association). East Malling Research, Hadlow College, KCAS (Kent County Agricultural Society), Kent Smallholders, Kent Wildlife Trust, Lawrence Gould Partnership, LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming), NFU (National Farmers’ Union), Protect Kent (Campaign Protection Rural England), Dr Alan Rae, The Apple Man (John Guest), Why Farming Matters in Kent, and WFU (Women’s Farming Union). In addition, the group extends invitations to other interested parties who wish to ‘observe’.

Although many members are Kent-based, there is no county or regional-related barrier to membership and applications are welcomed from other rural sector bodies and organisations. There is no membership fee nor are there any charges attached to meetings.

  • The rural sector often feels misunderstood and its values often go unrecognised.
  • The ‘countryside’ is often perceived as something that ‘just happens’ rather than an environment that is largely managed by farmers and other rural industries.
  • The contribution the rural sector makes to the economy is often overlooked or dismissed.
  • Farming and production horticulture put food on our tables – but they are not as valued as they should be.
  • The importance of the rural sector in relation to recreation and wellbeing is taken for granted.
  • The rural sector’s investment in habitat conservation and encouragement of biodiversity is generally overlooked.

If you agree with all – most – or any of the above, you will understand why the Rural Focus Group was formed.

In unity we

  • can increase understanding…
  • spread the message…
  • generally benefit the rural sector.

If you would like to know more, are interested in joining – or are a journalist who would like to arrange a visit – please contact Pat Crawford – pat.crawford@hadlow.ac.uk – 07771 635684