A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


General Conclusion

It is not the purpose of this brief account to summarise the results of the report which are intended for reference and for the use of specialists over a long time, but a number of general points may usefully be made.

The first point which comes out of the whole of this research is that the attitude of the farming community to the whole question of technical education is a very positive one. This conclusion is diametrically opposed to many of the forecasts which were made before the inquiry started, but is one which has been displayed at every point in the survey. From the beginning the reception of the Questionnaire by farmers was friendly and a great deal of interest was displayed. Farmers took a great deal of trouble to see that the questions were adequately answered and this provided a very sound basis for the report.

The results show throughout that farmers are keenly interested in these issues and in spite of occasional superficial grumblings the work of the Ministry is well appreciated in the sphere of technical education and advice.

For those who are concerned with problems of informing farmer the most striking characteristic of the agricultural population is homogeneity. It may be remembered that nine-tenths of farmers are the sons of farmers and that four-fifths of them learned to farm on their father’s farm or on the farm of a relative, and that the recruits to farming from other professions are very often men who have already had a career; thus there is little recruitment to farming of young men from other occupations or straight from school as there is in industry and in the professions.

This homogeneity has another effect, which is that whatever is done at the present time to raise the standards of technique and increase knowledge influences not only the present generation of farmers, but the generations of farmers who are to come because a very large proportion of farmers’ children, both boys and girls, are destined to enter the industry.

The direct method of informing farmers by publicity media has clearly had great success although its influence has been uneven. In considering publicity media it is important to remember that the very small farmers who are a large proportion of the total are much handicapped by lack of time.

The kind of media which appear to have had most effect are advertisements in the local and farming press and the wireless. Leaflets, although disliked by some farmers, have undoubtedly been very useful. The wireless and the local and farming press are particularly important to the small farmers who are so much more tied to their farms than those who have a staff.

It is important to remember, that apart from the immediate effect of publicity campaigns, media has a valuable effect in creating goodwill between the farming community and the Ministry. A farmer who was unable to remember any advertisement by name said that “as long as I see those advertisements week after week I know that the Ministry of Agriculture is interested in how farmers are getting on”. The effect on practice was clearly measurable and the campaign to persuade farmers to use mercurial seed dressing had been very successful. The dressing of wheat has become almost general and the dressing of oats and barley reflect very much the success of the campaign.

Practical demonstrations and the County Committees were considered valuable methods of disseminating information although here again the “small man” is handicapped by lack of time to attend.

The inquiry into the work of the County Committee showed that the Advisory Services of the Agricultural Executive Committees were greatly appreciated and that most farmers would like this type of organisation to continue after the war. The positive effects of the committee's work were obvious at almost every stage of the inquiry.

Farmers' attitudes to general education showed that the farming community is very appreciative of its importance and that most farmers are trying to give their children a good general education so that the next generation of farmers should have had a much higher standard of education than their fathers. At the same time farmers have progressive and positive views about improving education in order that agriculture may benefit and in spite of the rather vocal prejudice against scientific education, farmers' attitudes to Farm Institutes and agricultural colleges are positive and overwhelmingly approving.

It appears that the “small” farmer who is often farming single handed - or at the most with one or two labourers - has special problems which so far have not been met fully – lack of time prevents him from participating in many of the educational activities of the County Committees and the same factor makes the study of printed information equally difficult.

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