Sally Granger reflects on ORFC 2024 session, Media Storytelling for Food Systems Change. Listen along while you read.
As the farming sector descends on a rainy Oxford, our nature and climate emergency flexes. To the North of the city the banks of the Thames swell to form wet grasslands, and the canal tops the towpath. There is no ignoring our collective ecological challenge, and so our sector’s storytellers gather upstairs in a pub. A warm room, packed with bodies, hoping to unpack the role stories have in making an agroecological future a reality.
Our Chair, Dan Iles, opens the session by questioning where power lies in the food system given there are so many unheard voices. He invites us to reclaim and democratise how food and farming is talked about by bringing these voices forth in our work. Our three panellists; Katie Revell, Anna Jones and Nina Pullman, share their successes and challenges from the broadcasting front lines and a key question emerges; are we activists or are we journalists?
Public discourse around food and farming is as divisive as any because what we eat is deeply personal, especially to the people who grow it. As Anna Jones says, it is easy to find the for and against, but things are never really black and white. In order to bring people on a journey, what we need is impartialism, journalistic integrity and real stories to humanise these topics with complexity and nuance. Once we put them out into the world, they speak for themselves and impact people in ways we cannot predict. Anna argues that, in the media, we shouldn’t be pursuing an agenda for the change we want to see. Instead, we should be holding space for the conversation to evolve.
If we do have an agenda, perhaps it should be making sure we do this work in a sustainable way, because we will need to feed the fire for a long time before it burns a new course. Our panellists started these projects out of passion, not for financial gain and in some cases at the cost of their health and work-life balance. You may be looking for opportunities to do this work, or even hoping to start your own platform, but none of us can do it alone. Now they are more established, Katie Revell extolls the virtues of a new PR colleague who brings their podcast to ever wider audiences and Nina Pullman recalls the support she found when there was money to take on a staff writer. Perhaps obviously, the answer to doing this for the long term is in the people you surround yourself with, in finding collaborators and working to your strengths.
As storytellers we don’t have the power to bring about change directly but we can shine a light on hidden voices and create containers for informed debate. Our activism lies in our ability to connect, share and support one another to do this for as long as it needs to be done. To work together to keep bringing forth powerful stories until we build a critical mass and democratise the food and farming conversation.
Sally Granger has worked in conservation for more than a decade, leading engagement teams and creating nature based experiences. A grower, birdwatcher and creative doer, she is driven by a passion for nature and a fascination for the ways people connect with land. As a yoga instructor and outdoor facilitator Sally also guides groups in the Peak District and the Scottish Highlands.