Read stories from the bike tour researchers who cycled around the UK.
For the Commission to understand the reality of UK food, farming and countryside, we needed to go on the road. Between April and November 2018 our team wended their way through dozens of villages and towns throughout England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, listening to people who have been much talked about but little heard in debates on food, farming and the countryside, and recording what they told us about their hopes, needs, challenges and success stories.
By getting on a bike and going to where people live, mainly by invitation but otherwise simply through showing up out of interest and curiosity, we demonstrated that we are serious about involving the broadest cross section of citizens and communities in our work. We showed up in high streets, supermarkets, farmers markets, livestock markets, schools, sheltered housing, health centres, community centres, WI meetings, workplaces and pubs.
On the bike, we used digital tools to capture responses to simple questions, which enabled us to create a vivid picture of the rich diversity and complexity of UK rural communities and countryside (and urban settings too when we passed through).
The tour combined ethnographic tradition with conversation and interview. Researchers recorded their experiences through photograph, video and diary to share their personal perspectives and insights. By working with industry experts and citizens, we aimed to understand how public perception and values differ and align with the reality of our food, farming and countryside. We conducted our interviews in relaxed and informal settings in which the researcher steps into the world of the interviewee. The interviews were minimally structured, to ensure conversations flowed and genuine values, concerns and ideas could emerge. This approach is intended to upend the pedagogy of consultation.
Over 500,000 words of notes and 2,158 miles later, the researchers informed the work of the final report with a rich seam of real stories and experiences often lost in conventional research processes.
We published Fork in the Road in April 2019 which tells some of the stories the researchers heard on the bike. Read the book via the link below.