A born and bred country person. I’ve been doing the job I love for 15 years; working with farmers in various guises. I, like many folk these days, moved from my homeland to somewhere different. My roots are in the bread bowl of East Anglia; big skies, sightline for miles, living just above sea level - that sort of thing! I moved to Devon 3 years ago for a coastal, hill walking life and have very much embedded myself into village life down here. That said, I live a short distance from Exeter and on an almost daily basis I find myself driving into town for after work activities. I class myself as one of the inbetweeners: where town meets country.

Just the other day a friend said “Are you a little less busy now because is it ‘lambing’ that’s finished?”. I rolled my eyes and laughed at him but it occurred to me the majority of the population really are disconnected to the countryside around them. For someone who grew up with the weekly wheat price or ‘have you seen that bit of ploughing on the A road’ type conversations at the dinner table, this still shocks me.

In a world where the lines are blurring between town and country and, most certainly in the past year, more and more people are getting out (or moving) into the countryside to enjoy the freedoms of rural idyl, how do we live harmoniously alongside each other? Though many farmers and their neighbours get along, there can sometimes be discord resulting from poor communication and a lack of understanding and consideration. I firmly believe it’s a case of education and tolerance for all of us.  Increasingly the project work we are delivering at FWAG has an element of community engagement, offering workshops to local parishes explaining where and how taxpayer money is being spent, in addition to information boards or signs posted on sites explaining what the project ambitions are, and let’s not forget the power of social media. A very well visited Conservation Trust local to me tirelessly educates the public about nature and most recently about seasonal conservation grazing through signage, conservation groups and on the web. Another example is a local farming family in our neighbouring village often responding to villagers’ comments on Facebook about anything to do with an increase in their tractors on the road, an AWOL cow, or even a planning application for diversification. They have a super way of putting the record straight and conversing with the neighbourhood - I think we should all take a leaf out of their ‘face-book’. Testing my own patience, I have a father that lives in the past and I spend an awful lot of time explaining to him how times are moving on and how the world works these days with the nearby city boundaries moving ever closer to home and the front gate firmly closed.  I now appear to have made it my small personal mission to educate those around me one person at a time through informal friendly conversations, be that in the gym or on a dog walk with fellow villagers, about farming life and how it works. Sometimes it is a case of opening our eyes on both sides of the fence; understanding how they look at it on the other side and then explaining how it is on ours.

‘There is no shame in not knowing something. The shame is not being willing to learn’ - Alison Croggon