OUR OWN Claire Taylor – who co-hosted QMS' MEAT: The Future conference, in Glasgow, this week – was spot on when she put forward the view that the mainstream media had become somewhat of a dirty word within farming circles over the past year and at times rightly so – but that we need to engage with them to reach a wider audience.

We have all seen the headlines which basically read 'save the planet, stop eating meat'. But what we tend to do in response is to shun the media and put a barrier up to anyone who challenges us, but in doing so, we shut off communication paths to the public and to our consumers.

This industry has every right to be angry at the regular criticism and misinformation being disseminated but we too often direct that anger within our own community – we are guilty of shouting aloud to our own farming circles. We need to start rethinking our narrative and how we sell our story – who are we trying to convince?

In many ways, James Withers was right this week at the conference, when he said: "Let vegans be." There's a much bigger and wider audience out there that the industry needs to engage with and the conference, quite rightly, zeroed in on 'flexitarians' as being an ideal target for the positivity of the 'eat local, save the planet' and the 'eat less, but better quality' mantras. In fact, this is a target audience that is many times larger than vegans/vegetarians and one which can be swayed – the plant-based diet only tiny minority will not listen.

The readers of this column are already converted and so the rhetoric has to move more mainstream. The great story that is Scottish Agriculture plc, needs to be the essential reading in the 'nationals', TV and radio, and with the on-line opinion formers. That will be the big all-industry challenge. QMS cannot do it alone.

As an industry, we all need to think more about our audience. The farming industry can only thrive and grow if we produce what our customers want – and those customers increasingly want to know where their food comes from, how it is sourced and how it is looked after. This imperative flow of communication can only happen if we engage and listen, even if at times we sometimes hear things we don't want to hear.

Now, more than ever, each and every one of us has an important job to do in defending farmers and the agricultural community. We don't need to sugar coat it ... just the truth will suffice. And that does not mean attacking audiences with opposing views – it means making sure the good stuff we all do starts making the headlines.

There is no need to take on the vegan 'bots' in countering all opposing views. Much more productive is to be persistent in majoring on the many positives that we have in Scotland. It's not all about chocolate box imagery, but there's a real tale to tell in how that picture was painted – it was this industry that shaped and formed it.