One of the key drivers in creating a newsworthy publicity campaign is the marking of time of an organisation or service that has been going for a long time.
This week sees the 150th Balmoral Show take place and this year, the Ulster Farmers’ Union are also celebrating their Centenary and being the voice of farmers in Northern Ireland for the past 100 years. As someone whose father, grandfathers and great-grandfathers farmed, it was a privilege for me to be involved in the publicity management for the UFU Centenary Celebration event which was held at the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum on 5th and 6th May.
The member-led organisation has promoted the farming industry through many challenges and political changes including both World Wars and the partition of Ireland as well as the BSE crisis in 1996 and the Foot and Mouth outbreak in 2001. The Union is currently involved in securing the best deal for agriculture during the Brexit negotiations, seeking for solutions in relation to the border, trade deals, direct support and access to labour.
The setting of the Centenary Celebration reflected how farming used to be carried out – the horse ploughing and potato planting demonstrations helped to visualise what is now carried out by large tractors and machinery. The horse and cart rides around the museum reminded us of how our ancestors travelled and the thatched cottages provided the perfect backdrop to how the countryside would have looked in 1918 when the UFU was established. You can watch some highlights in the recent BBC Home Ground episode.
Balmoral Show has been a key event in the NI calendar attracting both the farming community and the general public with a wide range of attractions, events and features. My grandfather, James McConnell and his brother William showed Aberdeen Angus cattle and Border Leicester sheep, and for them, Balmoral was the highlight of their farming year. I have inherited scrapbooks featuring them preparing the animals for the show and some of the prizes they won that made the headlines.
Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.
Extract from Digging by Seamus Heaney
Like Seamus Heaney, I come from a farming background and like Seamus Heaney, I chose not to farm like my father but use my pen, and now more readily my laptop, to ‘dig’ or work with. By choosing a career in Public Relations I have been able to help promote the farming industry to the general public. Telling the farming story is important because we are getting further and further away from those who’s forefathers did farm.
Initiatives like the UFU’s Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend help to engage the public with the farming community, giving them access to farms and the opportunity to learn how our food is made, where it comes from and the care and attention given to look after the land and the animals that live off it.
In the age of social media, farmers now get the direct opportunity to share their working day and week with a large, even global, audience without having to leave the farm. With the arrival of smartphones, everyone has a camera in their pocket but back in the early 20th Century, they were not so common.
As farmers have embraced the technological advances to help run profitable and efficient farms, may they also in this UFU Centenary year engage with social media platforms to help narrow the divide between food producers and food consumers.
This article was written by purplerain