I think this was the first time they've probably had that open conversation where they had that space to both agree and disagree with each other's viewpoint.
Siân-Elin, Fork to Farm Local Dialogue Facilitator
Food Sense Wales, an organisation aiming to co-create a Welsh food system that is good for people and the planet, convened three conversations in a podcast format between food systems actors for their Fork to Farm Dialogue. The dialogue came under Food Sense Wales’ work as part of the Food Policy Alliance Cymru, a group of organisations working together to advocate changes to the food system and food policy, and gain social momentum. The podcast series, both in English and Welsh, explores the topics of supply chains and procurement practices; the links between language, community, and land use in Wales, and how to move towards net-zero within an inter-generational family farm. This Fork to Farm Dialogue was coordinated by Siân-Elin, the Communication and Engagement Manager at Food Sense Wales.
For Siân-Elin it was imperative that whichever shape her dialogue took it should serve the broader purpose of Food Policy Alliance Cymru. In this context, Siân-Elin opted for a podcast format as “you've got this space for the conversation to breathe and to develop” while also supporting their aim to build a movement by creating a resource that can be widely shared. Moreover, with the time and resources available a podcast was a way to have “quality conversations by keeping the conversations to a small number of people.” It also reflected “the unique political and policy context in Wales.”
The first podcast episode, focusing on supply chains, brought together a local authority; a supplier; a wholesaler, and a producer. It managed to “bring people from across these different parts of the food system together to have a really good open, frank, discussion. These individuals were already aware of each other; some knew each other but it was the first time they were brought together to discuss procurement in this way.”
The second episode was a conversation between father and daughter, Glyn Roberts and Beca Glyn, who farm at Dylasau Uchaf, a National Trust tenant farm nestled between Betws y Coed and Ysbyty Ifan in North Wales. Beca and Glyn brought in the intergenerational dimension.
The third episode brought together two farmers to have a conversation about the links between the Welsh language, communities, and use of land. This dialogue was a particularly good opportunity to create dialogue between farmers with differing opinions: “I think this was the first time they've probably had that open conversation where they had that space to both agree and disagree with each other's viewpoint.”
Overall, Siân-Elin believes that the podcast process, and the exchanges that occurred around it, supported relationship and trust-building between people working in the food systems in Wales.
“We got them together and we recorded the podcast straight off in one take. It was brilliant, but what was really interesting were the conversations that were happening after - when they went for coffee, and then spoke about how they could work together. And, those relationships have been building since.”
For example, the local authority representative in the first podcast episode is leading on a food procurement project. In this dialogue they had the chance to meet a local grower and distributor. For Siân-Elin the Fork to Farm Dialogue process was about facilitating the opportunity for stakeholders like these to interact.
Further, the process was beneficial for Food Sense Wales who were keen to “make connections with the farming unions, and the second episode was a really nice way of building that connection….growing your network and getting people to talk to each other that might not have otherwise had those conversations.”
One piece of advice:
“As our dialogues were being recorded as podcasts, we wanted to keep the number of participants to a minimum and wanted to have a clear focus on our conversations. Planning the conversations and working with an experienced presenter/facilitator was really important. We also used an experienced producer to record the podcasts to ensure high production values and assistance with hosting etc.”
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