Matt Slack

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As a farmer and butcher, Matt Slack knows that British meat is the best in the world so that gives him a running start when he promotes the industry on social media, and he does that with quite remarkable results.

Since he embarked on his social media campaign in 2020 he has notched up more than 100,000 followers, a number that grows daily, and achieved over 50 million views.

Matt farms 90 acres in Doncaster, diversifying into butchery after foot-and-mouth forced changes to the business.

His on-farm slaughterhouse, one of very few small independent abattoirs remaining, also provides an important service for other farmers and local farm shops.

On social media he had set out with an ambition to educate people, in particular the younger generation, about where their food originates from and why they should be backing British farmers.

Matt believes there is a ‘lost’ generation of shoppers, those who only buy their meat from supermarkets for convenience.

He wants to show them how easy it is to support local businesses instead.

“My posts have become very popular, especially with the younger generation who had believed that their meat came out of a packet from a supermarket,’’ says Matt, who was an ambassador for this year’s #FARM24 run by Farmers Guardian.

On TikTok, he goes by the name of slackys1 and posts on Facebook as E V Slack and Sons; he is also a prolific user of YouTube and Instagram.

“It’s helping me get the message out there that British meat is the best in the world, which is something as farmers we should be proud of,’’ says Matt, who believes transparency has been key.

“I believe I’ve amassed quite a following very quickly because I’ve unlocked the doors and taken the chains off, I’ve made myself as transparent as possible.’’

“I try to get the message across to people that British agriculture and livestock are the best in the world, something to be proud of.’’

He acknowledges it is not all down to him – he is grateful of the support of his sister, Claire, and other family members.

“It’s a family effort, I couldn’t do the videoing without them,’’ he admits.

It could well lead to other opportunities as Matt’s posts have caught the attention of some well know chefs.

“They have been getting in touch to ask me to work with them.’’

What the Judges said

Very clear passion for helping to change the perception and eduction of the younger consumers on Tik Tok by showing them where their food comes from. Additional content through Instagram and Facebook as well as in-person farm trips with schools and after dinner speaker opportunities. It is very clear his activities are making an impact on consumers.

Ally Hunter Blair

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It started as a mission to prove that British farming is “not just a load of grumpy old men in flat caps’’.

Now, with more than 55,000 followers on social media and his own YouTube channel, Ally Hunter-Blair is one of the country’s best known farmers.

By using videos and photographs to capture the highs and lows of life on a British farm, Ally is seen as a principal farming influencer, engaging with his followers to promote the industry he makes a living from.

He gives those followers a true ‘warts and all’ insight into farming, capturing footage on the 500-acre holding he and his family farm near Ross on Wye, predominantly arable land owned by The Duchy of Cornwall.

Ally uses digital platforms to share that story and communicate with a curious public, taking every opportunity to champion British agriculture and promote a sustainable farming approach.

“I don’t shy away from the hard truths but keep it light, fun and something people enjoy following,’’ he explains.

It is not just social media that gives him that platform but television appearances too – Ally and the farm have featured in several TV programmes including more recently Born Mucky – Life on the Farm on the Discovery channel.

Just as Ally’s wife, a horse-riding instructor, has used her skills to help the business diversify into the equestrian industry, his social media and television activities are a modern form of business diversification.

He doesn’t flinch from some of the more difficult the questions that come his way on social media, taking the approach of being open and honest about his farming operations, whether or not they are a success.

He not only uses those digital platforms to highlight the difficulties individuals and businesses in agriculture are experiencing, but the government too, and how these directly affect those around him.

This he does to give an understanding of how decisions made by others can directly affect a business.

Ally encourages other farmers to follow his lead, to openly communicate to raise awareness of their experiences.

He has no plans to slow down, keeping up the current pace of making videos, adding photos and engaging with people.

“I want to keep selling the good news story that is British agriculture in a world where we are addicted to negative headlines,’’ he vows.

What the Judges said

A passionate farmer who has taken his TV appearances to another level through embracing digital channels and telling the story of what happens on farm to help educate consumers. This content is now having a very clear impact on his business with agri-product partnerships and sales through his diversification business.

Stephanie Powell

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Farming can be an isolated and stressful job with little opportunity to share problems and advice around a fireside so why not create a virtual version of that?

Welsh farmer Stephanie Powell has done just that with the Farming Fireside Chat UK page on Facebook.

If farmers can’t physically be in a room together because of time and distance then create that space in a virtual format, Stephanie decided.

She launched the page in January 2022 and it has since gone from strength to strength; members post their problems and others pitch in with advice and potential solutions.

For those with sensitive issues to discuss – perhaps they are frightened, struggling financially or feeling overwhelmed - posts can be anonymous.

“We have found that the anonymous button feature a godsend for people who have something particularly sensitive they want to share,’’ says Stephanie.

She leads a team of administrators and moderators - Helen Finnerty, Susan Findlay, Ben Jones, Alan Owens, Brenda Bayliss, Kirstie Duncan and William Anderson – who check in on members they have concerns about.

What makes this Facebook page different from others is that although it is monitored and led by an administration team, it is driven by a community of like-minded farming and rural people, all with a common purpose of helping and encouraging each other.

There is a list of helplines too because, as Stephanie explains, at the point when people are stressed they are not in the right mindset for searching for the number of a relevant support service.

The page even has lists of places where people who can’t afford to buy groceries to access cheap or free food. “Yes, it has happened, and several times,’’ says Stephanie. “We won't let anyone go without, we will find a way on our page to help.’’

Applications to join are carefully checked by the administration team and posts and comments monitored.

The team also leads informal ‘chat nights’.

While many of the posts are from farmers who are struggling, the page also has light-hearted ones such as funny farming memes and jokes.

“Members appreciate the fun element which we work hard to keep as it cheers everyone up,’’ says Stephanie.

The format may be a virtual one but the community of users is now finding opportunities to meet up in person with real and lasting friendships being created.

Tom Ware

Young farmer Tom Ware took to social media to encourage others in the agricultural community to open up about their mental health struggles  after losing his friend and one-time colleague, Leonard Eadon, to suicide.

Eighteen months later, Tom’s ‘Just Talk Agri’ content on social media platforms has gained a large following and has been described by others as a ‘positive and safe environment’ for famers to share their challenges.

After losing his friend, Tom started out on a social media mission to break down the stigma surrounding mental well-being in agriculture. He had worked with Leonard during a harvest season in Lincolnshire, and admits he was badly affected by his death.

He wanted to build something positive so that people would take notice of the challenges within agriculture, so he posted a short video on Facebook.

The video provoked a good response from farmers, with others from across the country then joining in, sharing their own videos and messages: Just Talk Agri gained momentum.

“We gather videos from people who are both well-known farmers in the industry or ordinary farmers with their message to share the load and share their love. They can upload videos or photos to our pages for the wider audience to see,’’ says Tom.

It has started a movement, with people spreading the important message online.

“It is okay not to be okay and it is okay to talk, but most of all, it is important to listen,’’ says Tom, who has worked in agriculture since 2019 and had ties to the industry since childhood.

“Suicide in farming is no laughing matter and, unfortunately, it is a growing problem. Farming can be a lonely industry, which is where we come in to make sure that farmers know there are people there for them and that we are there for one another; for people to know that it is okay to speak out and get the help they need to make their life that little bit better.’’

Working in agriculture can be extremely difficult, with long hours, isolation and the growing stresses resulting from rising costs.

“That inevitably impacts on farmers’ mental health,’’ adds Tom.

He has formed alliances with the Farming Community Network (FCN) and the Yellow Wellies Mind Your Head campaign to promote mental health awareness among young farmers as well as older generations.

“We want to let them know that no one in the industry is alone and no one has to face the darkness alone.’’