Chris Harrap - Tourism / education diversificiation for pig farms - can indoor housing be made virtually pleasing to the uniformed public, to encourage engagement?
Having a background in property and design, I took on my estate management role in 2014, working on a mixed use estate (pigs, dairy and arable) in South Yorkshire. Our Jersey cows supply milk to Longley Farm and our pigs consume the waste from Longley’s dairy, thereby sustainably converting food waste into natural fertiliser for our land and pork produce.
Whilst I was originally employed to assist with the land and property side of the estate, my role has grown and I have become much more involved with the wider farm strategy, which has been a fascinating period of learning and hopefully bringing useful ideas from an outside perspective.
As a farm, we have an opportunity to diversify through public engagement, being in an urban fringe location and with stunning assets on our land to use in this endeavour, from listed buildings and walled gardens to restore, woodland to manage and improve, and a desire to increase our overall sustainability.
I’m passionate about reconnecting consumers with the countryside around them, to show how hedges are laid, what other species live on our farm, what we grow, how it’s a cyclical operation, and where our food comes from in general.
Away from work, I enjoy sketching and design, walking in the Yorkshire Dales and Scotland, travelling to new places abroad and time with my black Labrador, Jess.
I’m very grateful to the John Oldacre Foundation for their sponsorship of this project, to Jim Dickinson of Longley Farm for his encouragement as my employer, to my family and partner for their continuous help and support.
Public interest in farming methods and animal welfare is increasing, but the commercial indoor nature of pig housing is very different to the image the public has of traditional farms, and today we have never been less connected to our farmers and countryside.
It’s essential that the industry is more transparent to the public consumer, who is increasingly asking where and how their food is produced, but there is a nervousness amongst farmers about engaging with the public, with activism on the rise.
Whilst farmers are under pressure to produce our food as efficiently and affordably as possible, which has led to more intensive production systems, I would like to see if it is possible to openly show consumers how pigs are farmed in indoor housing and how we might create a positive impression by doing so. This should also encourage the public to value food more, understanding what efforts and resources have gone into its production, so that we can be proud of British farming, continuously strive for high welfare and encourage a fair price paid to farmers.
I hope to travel to the USA, Germany, Holland, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway and other relevant countries to seek out the highest welfare and most engaging units these places have to offer, and to see what can be learned from those who have more directly communication with public consumers.