The whole agricultural Press does a terrific job – and working with the industry can help ensure a viable future for farming, the BBC Countryfile broadcaster told an audience of 200.
Farming journalists were on the crest of a wave, seen as reporting professionally and responsibly a sector of the national economy now very much back in favour . . . and not shrinking from reporting its difficulties, he said.
It was, of course, music to the ears of the gathered journalists and public relations people who make up the Guild's membership – but Mr Henson stressed that his role as Lloyds TSB Farming Ambassador was actually easy, because: "so many people in agriculture are doing a great job."
Countryfile had become one of the most watched programmes on BBC television: "up there with the soaps" since moving to an evening slot, and the Lambing Live programme had helped dispel any chocolate-box image viewers might have had about farming.
The barriers against farmers in the public's perception had dropped; farmers' markets had come into their own and farm shops had sprung up all over the country.
But taking a long view, the world of the agricultural food supply chain was certainly challenged by a rise in the world population from seven billion to a projected nine billion by 2050, with water and fuel in shortening supply.
In the Western world we wasted about 40% of our food and our populations were roughly stable, but elsewhere birth rates far outweighed deaths, he said. What did this mean for the British farmjer? Should we export out expertise to show others how to grow food?
We were fortunate in having not only a commodities market to service but also niche markets and a market for energy crops. And farmers were increasingly considering sustainability.
Mr Henson, who farms 650 hectares in Gloucestershire and runs the Cotswold Farm Park, described his own farming arrangements, sharing machinery and optimising yields without wastage, developing the business by recruiting good staff. But, most of all, responsibility was to supply good, healthy food to the customer.
Supply-chain responsibility was vital, with established long-term relationships ensuring a degree of profitability that would allow agriculture to survive and flourish for future generations to take over.
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