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NSA Breakfast Club - Forgotten faces: Recognising rural culture within the climate debate

Date: 6th October 2021

Time: 8.30am

Location: Online - zoom webinar


This is a full report of the NSA Breakfast Club webinar. To watch the recording of the session, please click here.

Remembering the past traditions upon which our rural culture is based, recognising the rich culture existing now and acknowledging the needs of future generations were key messages delivered by October’s NSA Breakfast Club webinar. The picture painted by speakers Nick Fenwick (FUW), Alana Black (RYP) & Sarah Palmer (NFYFC) stimulated plenty of questions and fuelled a wide-ranging debate which further underlined the key message of how sustainability should not be seen through a single lens.

Chaired by NSA Chief Executive, Phil Stocker, the theme of the webinar identified the importance of sheep farming and rural communities in a continuation of NSA's “Countdown to COP 26”. Introducing the topic and the speakers, Phil stressed how, as farmers being responsible for managing the bulk of our landscape, there is a critical role to play in the solution to address climate change. Particularly as the industry is very much at the forefront in many discussions, both from a positive standpoint but often, inaccurately, accusatory also.

Opening with a spectacular photograph of a 4000 year old sheep pen, Nick went on to talk about the importance of and need for local income to support rural development; how local culture can be measured and highlighted how woodland and trees have become central to so many of the debates, sometimes ill-informed, on climate change and sustainability.

Detailing how the younger sector of the rural population had decreased recently, Alana continued by underlining how there was still a strong family-based emotional tie to rural communities, with a desire by many to forego higher salaries for careers and employment which meant their values were big fulfilled. However, as was pointed out, often they do not feel empowered to have a say or that they are not being heard by those who can make change happen.

The rural population feel passionate about their environment, maintained Sarah and additionally recognise the importance of their rural social groups, utilising village halls, local pubs and the network of communities which support those living and working in agriculture and associated industries. Nevertheless, she stressed the need for more of the rural community to be confident and share stories to portray the rural perspective, in order to bridge the very evident knowledge gap demonstrated by the very vocal urban sections.

A wide-ranging set of questions and comments bore testament to the extensive interest from the audience and led to an informative and inspiring debate, some of which raised pertinent questions on the government agenda for UK agriculture.


Speaker biographies

Nick Fenwick, Farmers Union of Wales (FUW)

Nick Fenwick grew up on hill farms in the mountains of Montgomeryshire and continues to farm sheep and cattle in partnership with his family as well as being Head of Policy for the FUW. Prior to joining the FUW policy team in 2004, he ran a computer programming and consultancy business, specialising in IT for agricultural and rural businesses. He is married to Elizabeth, an artist and graphic designer. Elizabeth and Nick have two daughters, Myfanwy and Morfudd.

Alana Black, Rural Youth Project

Alana has a Bachelor of Communication – Public Relations from Charles Sturt University and in 2018 was announced as an Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) Trailblazer for her work on communication and succession planning in family farming businesses. Alana, who moved from Australia to Aberdeenshire, is a freelance agricultural communicator, a graduate of the Scottish Enterprise Rural Leadership Programme, a Rural Youth Project vlogger, cricket tragic and amateur runner who “bagged” her first Munro this summer.

Sarah Palmer, National Federation for Young Farmers' Cubs (NFYFC)

Sarah works with the NFYFC agriculture and rural issues steering group (YFC AGRI) and forges and maintains industry and government relationships to support YFC opportunities. This enables the development and delivery of relevant resources, events and research to ensure young farmers’ voices are listened to and represented.

Nick Fenwick (left) and Alana Black (middle) Sarah Palmer (right)