Norfolk farmers urged to ‘raise their game’ and promote positive PR messages

Business manager Sophie Bambridge (pictured fourth from left) with the rest of the team at B&C Farmi

Business manager Sophie Bambridge (pictured fourth from left) with the rest of the team at B&C Farming, based in Marsham. Picture: Jacob Filby - Credit: Jacob Filby

A passionate advocate of quality Norfolk food production told Stalham Farmers' Club that the agricultural industry needs to raise its game in terms of promoting itself.

The success story of Britain's food producers must be heard loud and clear, said Sophie Bambridge of B & C Farming, which grows more than 315 hectares of seed and ware potatoes from its base at Marsham, near Aylsham.

And it is absolutely essential as social media has become so successful at influencing younger consumers and especially changing attitudes to food and consumption, she told 70 club members and guests including a dozen members of North Walsham Young Farmers' Club.

Speaking on the theme of 'Meeting tomorrow's challenges today,' Miss Bambridge said there were great opportunities to feed a growing domestic market, with one example being the increasing consumption of vegan foods.

While some estimates suggest that vegans account for about 0.06 of the population, some vegan food products were bought by as many as 16pc of the population, she said.

As social media influenced attitudes, especially towards eating meat, many consumers were reducing consumption. This trend towards 'flexitarian' diets has already seen some consumers eat meat one day and then maybe meat-free, vegetarian or vegan another day, she said.

Miss Bambridge argued that farmers and food producers needed to be more 'pro-active' and promote positive messages to consumers – even suggesting Stalham's president and top potato grower Thomas Love could help by having a presence on Instagram.

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After working for about seven years for Barfoots, one of the country's leading growers and suppliers of corn on the cob, sweetcorn and other exotic crops, she returned to her native Norfolk because her father, Tony, wanted to recruit a technical manager for the expanding business.

Coming into an established business about two and a half years ago had been a challenge, she said, but she had brought new disciplines and ideas into the business, which now farms about 1,450ha of cereals, sugar beet, peas, beans and maize, plus potatoes.

She was presented with a copy of Alec Douet's history on Norfolk agriculture, a book named 'Breaking New Ground', by the club and was thanked by Sarah Norman of North Walsham YFC.