How Farmers are shaping our world

Farmers play a major role in society; they feed us, some of them warm us and all are custodians of the landscape and nature.

Responsibility and commitment goes way beyond their farms, crops and livestock, many are passionate “Agvocates” playing vital roles in their communities and society. The fact is farmers have the power to shape and change our society, indeed our futures.
We are all living in a changing, sometimes challenging world, so farmers have to be entrepreneurial, industrious, versatile and determined. We’ve noticed that many of the farmers we spend time with are:

  • Passionate farming advocates
  • Money-wise
  • Innovative
  • Resourceful
  • Attentive to detail, and
  • Collaborative.

Meet four farmers who embody these traits in different ways, championing initiatives which celebrate or support food and farming - read their inspiring stories.

Investing in farm diversification, tourism and the community

James Walker farms sheep, arable and tourists near Longreach in the far west of Queensland. Like many farmers, he lived through the worst of times in the recent five-year Australian drought. When the drought eventually broke in March 2016, his three-year old son experienced his first rain and the slow return of livestock to their fields – neither of which he had ever seen in his young life. James is a farmer with masses of enthusiasm and vision. Rather than dwell on having to de-stock his farm, he and his brother, Dan, focused on three things – investing in their personal futures and that of the farm, investing in the resilience of the local community and developing innovative ideas to take them into the future. They started farm visits for tourists, launched the first ever outback yacht club – 1,050km from the closest coast – and James used the time to study for a Nuffield Farming Scholarship entitled ‘Linking production and financial metrics in agriculture’. Together with others in the local community, the duo is working towards developing tourism and other industries to ensure the longevity and success of their community.  

James and Manny Walker, farm at Camden Park Station, Longreach
James and Manny Walker, farm at Camden Park Station, Longreach

Agricultural advocacy, innovation and sustainability at the core

On the other side of the globe, advocacy, innovation and collaboration are at the heart of Ian Pigott’s approach to farming, whose home is close to London. He founded an initiative called Open Farm Sunday in 2006, which is now run by LEAF (Linking the Environment and Farming), encouraging farmers all over the United Kingdom to open their farms for a single Sunday in June. It is an opportunity for everyone, young and old, to discover first-hand what it means to be a farmer and educate on the work they do producing our food and enhancing the countryside. This year close to 275,000 members of the UK public attended the event. Ian received an Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his advocacy work. As a farmer, he is also an innovator and keen to implement practices that will enhance soil health, biodiversity and farm output. A keen collaborator, Ian is one of 28 LEAF Demonstration Farms; all of them share best practice in implementing Integrated Pest Management(IPM).

Ian Pigott hosting a visit to The Farmschool , the educational charity of Thrales End
Ian Pigott hosting a visit to The Farmschool , the educational charity of Thrales End

The importance of food in the community

Zooming in on The Lebanon, Reema Massoud farms in the Chouf mountains south of Beirut. She and her husband grow herbs, vegetables and fruit which they sell at Souk el Tayeb – a vibrant farmers’ market in central Beirut. Souk el Tayeb was set up by a visionary man, Kamal Mousawak, whose dream was to unite the divided people of the Lebanon after its civil war through food. Every Saturday morning at the Souk, Reema makes the most delicious, traditional Lebanese bread, Manaeesh, using a time-honoured recipe passed down through generations of her family. Her attention to detail in crafting the savoury flatbread keeps the story of her region’s food and produce alive, the joy brought through the sharing of her food at the Souk breaks down cultural and religious differences. 

Reema Massoud farms with her husband
Reema Massoud farms with her husband in the Chouf Mountains, they sell their produce at Souk Al Tayeb in downtown Beirut
Reema and her family sell their vegetables
Reema and her family sell their vegetables and she cooks her famous thyme-seasoned Mannoush at Souk Al Tayeb

Farmers passionately supporting farmers

Moving geographically west, Andrew Ward farms in United Kingdom and has been awarded McDonald’s Flagship Farm status. Known to the industry as someone who plays to his strengths, he demonstrates avid attention to detail, is money-wise and resourceful, with great compassion. Following heavy snow late in the winter of 2013, Andrew was deeply moved by footage of farmers struggling to save dying and starving sheep which were buried under deep snow drifts. He put out an appeal, primarily via social media for fellow farmers to donate forage and straw to donate to desperate farmers, as well as pleas for haulage services. A charity called Forage Aid was formed, it helped hundreds of farmers then and has continued to help many more to date. Andrew was awarded a Member of the British Empire (MBE) in 2014 for his charitable and advocacy work, which also played an important role in highlighting the plight of farmers to the wider public. Farmers – keep up your amazing work, you make the world a better place.

Andrew Ward and his dog, Tara on his farm in Lincolnshire
Andrew Ward and his dog, Tara on his farm in Lincolnshire