Earlier this week, Janet Dwyer, Nick Lewis and Jonnie Felton attended a feedback meeting at Exford in Devon as part of the ‘State of Farming on Exmoor‘ research project commissioned by the Exmoor Hill Farming Network. The evening was an opportunity to present some key conclusions from the project to an audience of Network members and other stakeholders.
Nick reflects on the evening and the project as it was not only an opportunity for him to engage with the Network, but also with those who contributed to the work by completing postal and telephone surveys.
When I am asked about what I do for a living, the concise answer is “I speak to farmers on the phone”. With regard to this project it was also a very accurate description, although in reality the greater component of the work was helping to design, distribute, collate and analyse a complex postal survey. The survey was sent out to around 400 Exmoor Hill Farming Network members, and we received 117 responses – a very respectable response rate from a single round of surveys – thanks primarily to the persistence of the Network’s Officer, Katherine Williams encouraging people to respond. In addition to the comprehensive analysis of the survey, a series of more in depth telephone interviews were conducted by myself and our placement student, Jonnie Felton. As is often the case with conducting telephone interviews people can be very engaging, open and prepared to discuss quite personal matters, and again this was the case. Clearly it would be inappropriate to mention anything in this Blog, but it does mean that one develops a relationship with the work that you are doing, because people are often so candid and this can grab you.
For this project it was also an opportunity to present findings to people who took part in the work – which is an unusual situation, but one that appealed as it was a chance to give something back to those who took the time to answer questions. Katherine informed us that around 50-60 people were to be expected at Exford Village Hall for the meeting – which was to take place between 7-9pm on Tuesday 2nd June. Janet conducted the main presentation which was followed by a discussion. During this, questions were asked, points were raised and issues, largely with the the future and ‘next steps’ given consideration. During the morning of the 2nd, CCRI was informed that the report had been mentioned the previous evening in the House of Commons, and indeed was “commended to the House”, by the local MP, Ian Liddell-Grainger. This fact was mentioned by someone attending the evening, which I believe was an incredibly positive thing for those attending to hear – as it showed that the issues facing the community, raised during the research were being taking seriously at a high level, and at the beginning of a new Government with a minister who himself is familiar with Upland issues.
The meeting was very pleasant, and I hope that those attending found both the project and the evening itself beneficial. I certainly know that Katherine and the team from the Network were pleased with how things went, and that they can use the research that the CCRI conducted in the future direction of the important work of the Network in supporting Exmoor farmers. The evening concluded with a delicious buffet which allowed the CCRI team to speak with a number of people, and answer any other questions.