Teenagers talk farming : New research shapes way forward to engage young people with farming

An extensive programme of pioneering research to encourage better teenager engagement is helping the farming industry define how it becomes more relevant to the next generation, addressing the issues they care about and igniting their interest in the sector’s career opportunities.

The twelve-month research programme, commissioned by LEAF Education and supported by Rothamsted Research, comprised a survey of over 1,000 12 to 18-year olds across the UK and interviews with 60 teenagers at a Teenager Empowerment event, attended by LEAF’s Honorary President, HRH The Countess of Wessex last month.  The outcomes of the research will help shape new strategies and priorities for the food and farming industry to more effectively connect with young people.

Speaking about the importance of this work at the Teenager Empowerment event, HRH The Countess of Wessex said: “Young people are shaping their futures and I think we ignore them at our peril.  We really must engage and we must do it now in order that we can reap the benefits soon.”

Teenager research revealed:

  • 35% of young people would consider a career in food and farming, but only 22% have received relevant careers information.
  • 65% would look online and 20% on social media to find out more about farming.
  • 35% believe strongly that science and innovation will underpin a sustainable future for farming.
  • 41% strongly agreed that young people should be more interested in how food is produced and where food comes from.
  • 42% said that short (30 second) videos were the preferred choice for content.

The research revealed that despite teenagers feeling disconnected to farming and having limited understanding of what it delivers, many of today’s young people are interested in how their food is produced and the work farmers do.  In particular, they hold strong views around the environmental impact of farming and, furthermore, they would like to know more about career opportunities available in the sector.

Not surprisingly, when it comes to finding out more, teenagers are turning to social media, specifically, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube as their preferred channel and still identify with ‘older’ food celebrities, such as Jamie Oliver, but there is also an increase in young bloggers, vloggers and chefs.

Following the outcomes of the research programme, a new road-map for teenager outreach is being drawn up by LEAF Education in consultation with the agri-food industry, based on five key priority themes:

  • Outdoor Inspiration
  • Community Hub
  • Fit for Life
  • Farming Futures and Careers
  • Let’s Connect

Carl Edwards, Director, LEAF Education explained: “Engaging young people in farming and food production is vital to the future of the agricultural industry as well as for their own health and wellbeing.   We know that strengthening that connection can help promote healthier lifestyles and nurture a lifelong interest in the natural world, helping to build a sense of their own personal responsibility in protecting it.

“Over the past year, we have led a pioneering research programme, which has put teenagers at its very heart.  We have listened to their views and concerns, learnt about the issues that matter most to them, gained fresh perspectives and involved them directly in developing strategies to help transform the way the agricultural sector communicates with them and, crucially, addresses their needs and concerns.”

Professor Angela Karp, Director for Science Innovation, Engagement and Partnerships at Rothamsted Research, who helped shape the teenager research study added: “Today’s teenagers are the farmers, consumers and scientists of tomorrow, and what they think about farming will have a huge impact on the wider industry over the coming years, including implications for the future of research institutions such as Rothamsted.

“This research will allow Rothamsted and other organisations in the agricultural sector to improve the ways they engage with young people about where food comes from and how it is produced.”

Carl Edwards concluded: “Based on the outcomes of the research programme we are now working with our partners across the food, farming and education sectors, to develop a number of projects and initiatives based around the five key priority areas, which we will launch next year – during Defra’s Year of Green Action.  Young people are our future and we are determined to give them a voice in defining how their food and farming industry can become more relevant to them – whether that be through addressing sustainability issues, concerns around health and wellbeing, protecting the environment or opening their eyes to future career opportunities.”

The results of the research programme were shared at LEAF Education’s annual conference held on Tuesday 16th October and entitled ‘Engaging Teenagers with Farming: Listening. Learning Leading’.   Speakers included: Caroline Drummond, LEAF Chief Executive; Carl Edwards, Director, LEAF Education and Angela Karp, Rothamsted Research, Jane Craigie, Jane Craigie Marketing; Tom Martin, Village Farm, Iain Clarke, Llysfasi College; Robbie Kirkman, Eden Project; Thomas Doris, Mid-Ulster Youth Parliament, plus Jemima Pearce and students from Brockhill Park school, who have been involved in the project throughout facilitating discussions and outlining key priorities and recommendations which have come out of this research programme.


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About The Author

John Swire - Editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer as well as responsibility for the Agronomist and Arable Farmer and Farm Business websites. After 17 years milking cows on the family farm John started writing about agriculture in 1998 and has since written for a variety of publications and has developed a wide circle of contacts within the industry. When not working John is a season ticket holder at Stoke City and also of late has become a fitness freak, listing cycling, swimming and walking as his exercises of choice.