Simon Haley has become a Friend of the Guild largely as one of its founders of AgriChatUK, Britain’s largest weekly twitter-based agricultural discussion forum.
“We hold a two-hour online discussion on Thursday evenings from 8-10pm,” explains Simon. “At mid-May we had 6338 followers and on average get 80-100 people joining each discussion.
“But a discussion on rural mental health issues attracted 130 participations, involved 1158 tweets and reached an audience of more than 173,000 people,” he adds. “A more recent discussion on organic farming saw 1161 tweets with 5m impressions created and the hash tag trending across the UK.”
AgriChatUK provides everyone involved in farming with a virtual place to share ideas, discuss pressing issues, debate current topics or simply connect with people in the industry. There are six hosts – volunteers with backgrounds in farming, technology, journalism, academia, advisory and legal services – that take it in turns to lead the weekly discussions.
Topics for discussion have included policy and regulations, such as the future for Single Farm Payment for upland farms; environmental issues like climate change, renewable energy and wildlife; technical advice on innovation, precision farming and diversification; and rural community issues, such as road safety, county shows, crime, and so on.
“To mark the anniversary of our first discussion, we launched a competition to find two nominees to induct into our AgriChatUK Farming Hall of Fame,” says Simon. “We invited participants on twitter to nominate individuals, from which a shortlist was created, and we had an online vote on our website to determine which of the five nominees for the ‘modern’ and ‘historic’ categories would win.”
As far as his day job is concerned, Simon works as a rural business adviser for Reading Agricultural Consultants (RAC), a well-established, broadly-based, agricultural and rural planning consultancy covering agriculture, farm management, soils, agricultural economics, farm waste management and countryside planning and management. Based in Preston, Lancashire, he covers the North West area and also works on national and other projects further afield.
“My strengths lie in on-going client relationship management and business support and advice on matters such as business plans, budgets, performance monitoring and reviews, grant applications and planning applications,” Simon explains. “I work across all farming sectors and it’s the variety and strategic capabilities of the businesses and individuals I come across that fascinate me.”
Career highlights, he says, include a successful track record of RDPE grant applications, including extensions to farm diversification activities, new farm shops and tea rooms at garden centres. He has also helped with the purchase of land and setting up of a rural care farm business.
Note: Contact details for all new Members and Friends of the Guild can be found by using the website search facility to locate records in the eAlert Archive.