Communicating with farmers and land managers

Communication is key to describing the rationale for management practices, the ecological context and justification. A farmer needs to understand why they are doing an action and how success is measured in order to do it effectively. Providing information in a variety of formats ensures it caters for everyone, for example some learn more from video clips and podcasts, whilst others favour written reports.

Face to Face meetings

  • Face-to-face meetings with farmers and land managers are generally the most effective means of communicating advice on farm wildlife conservation.
  • A key ingredient of an effective Farm Environment Adviser is gaining the trust and respect of farmers. Be prepared ahead of any meeting with appropriate desktop research (see Preliminary Farm Wildlife Assessment ), such that you have all the necessary local information to apply to the advice you give, and ultimately increase the expectations for wildlife gains.
  • Everyone loves a map! Make sure yours are annotated as accurately as practical (see Preliminary Farm Wildlife Assessment). Confirm details such as farm boundaries and agri-environment participation with the farmer.

Reporting and documents

  • Overlong and text heavy reports/guidance notes are unlikely to be read in full. Make use of pictorial images (eg to illustrate desirable habitat vegetation structures), as this can be much clearer than lengthy descriptions.
  • Online guidance linked into reports or emails to support the advice being presented needs to be concise and relevant to management of agricultural land.
  • Ensure that documentation and links sent to farmers are compatible with use on tablets and smartphones. Many farmers rely on their smartphones and are not routinely in front of a desktop monitor.
  • Confirm during a farm visit what format of report is preferred by the farmer. Documented advice whether reports or guidance sheets on specific conservation activities can be sent as emails with any relevant attachments and hyperlinks, but some farmers may need or prefer hard copies.
  • In Wales Farm Environment Advisers may need to provide Welsh language equivalents of reports, videos and podcasts. Check to ascertain the farmers’ preference.

Videos and Podcasts

  • Consider targeted short video clips or podcasts to support or even replace static information on formal advice and guidance. Either link to existing resources or create your own (for help with presentation guidance see LEAFs Speak out toolkit).
  • Video clips and podcasts allow farmers to look/listen in their own time. Be aware that this might be more appropriate for some farmers, or at particular times of the farming calendar. For example, some arable farmers utilise long periods of tractor cab work to listen to podcasts. Poor rural connectivity, and a lack of familiarity and confidence using technology are barriers to some farmers accessing online and digital resources.
  • An advantage to the farmer of accessing information through a video, podcast or online interactive event is that it requires a reduced time and resource commitment compared to attending an in-person event. Plus, there is more opportunity for national and international knowledge transfer.

Some videos to check out...

Social media

  • Formal farm clusters or other farmer groups particularly lend themselves to an interactive platform such as WhatsApp or Facebook for practicalities such as arranging meetings, but also allowing the adviser to maintain contact and connections quickly and cheaply.
  • For help with professional use of social media see LEAFs Speak out toolkit.
  • Effective use of these methods within farmer groups can also facilitate and increase peer to peer learning which is an acknowledged benefit.