New Guild member Pat Crawford has instigated a new approach to getting cohesive messages about agriculture and other rural industries into the press by bringing together a number of organisations to present a united front on topical issues.
“Two years ago, recognising that the many strengths of the rural sector are frequently weakened by a concentration on things that divide rather than a focus on the many things that unite, I decided to do something about it!,” says Pat. “I formed the Rural Press Group, which now has fourteen members, including delegates representing the CLA, NFU, WFU, Kent Wildlife Trust, CPRE Protect Kent, Kent County Agricultural Society, LEAF, East Malling Research and Hadlow College.
“We meet about every six weeks, discuss the topic of the day (such as food security, land usage, climate change, burgeoning global population) and we are then interviewed by a journalist,” she explains. “We’re achieving considerable media coverage, including a series in a national title and in three regional magazines; it helps increase public understanding of current issues and future challenges, whilst simultaneously enhancing the profile of the various organisations represented in the group.”
Pat previously worked as a freelance journalist specialising in rural-related matters and before that was a partner in a firm offering specialist PR services for rural sector industries. She has also been a ghost writer and speech writer for “several well-known people” and is now press officer for Hadlow College, one of the leading land-based colleges, and for the Society of Master Saddlers.
“I also lead the Rural Business Development Group, which aims to open opportunities for employers and job-seekers, encourage the innovation and enterprise needed to start a business (and afford the help and advice needed to advance that business), promote diversification schemes and enhance the skills that can benefit productivity and competiveness,” Pat adds.
Members of this group range in age from 15 to 80-plus and the academic range extends from those with very minimal or no qualifications through to several who hold doctorates or equivalent professional qualifications. This spread is valuable, she says, because it enables members to network, learn from one another and engage in ways that would not be possible were membership more restrictive.
Twice monthly evening meetings are held and programmes include visits to farms, horticultural establishments and diverse rural businesses. ‘In house’ meetings include presentations concerned with setting up a business, business plans, structures and procedures, health and safety regulations, insurance and finance are also held.
“As for recreation, I used to enjoy eventing and showing hunters and riding horses but I now have little time for genuine recreation, other than enjoying a good read (mostly in the middle of the night!), theatre, films, exploring the British isles – and having supper with friends,” says Pat.