Apr 7, 2007
Royal Visit Generates Huge Publicity for English Farm

When it comes to generating publicity, the United Kingdom has one advantage the United States can’t match: royalty.

It would be unthinkable for the United States, which considers itself a meritocracy, to produce a genuine prince, let alone allow him to visit one of its farms. An actor or a president, maybe, but not a prince.

England, however, doesn’t have that limitation. Its royal family is still around, and is still extremely popular. The idea of a homegrown prince visiting a homegrown farm is at least a possibility in that country. The media frenzy such a visit could incite is something American farm marketers can only dream of.

Just because it’s possible doesn’t mean it’s easy, however. It pays to be persistent, or “cheeky” as they say in England. That’s the word Sally Jackson used to describe herself in front of a boisterous crowd in January, during the North American Farmers’ Direct Marketing Association’s annual conference in Austin, Texas. During a session called “What Flew & What Flopped: Best Management Practices for Farms & Ranches,” Jackson recounted the story of Prince Charles visiting her farm in January 2005.

Jackson and her husband, Andrew, own The Pink Pig Organic Farm Shop & Restaurant in Scunthorpe, England, formerly known as Lincolnshire Organics. The farm grows organic pork, eggs, vegetables and chickens. Much of its produce, and that of other local farmers, is sold at the farm shop or used as ingredients at the restaurant. For more information about the farm, visit www.pinkpigorganics.co.uk.

Jackson, a self-proclaimed “publicity tart,” kept sending letters to Prince Charles, informing him of all the farm’s doings. The heir to the English throne is known for being a “tree hugger,” she said.

“He’s big into local food and organic food.”

Her persistence finally paid off. Charles was scheduled to tour some local factories, and since he was in the neighborhood, he decided to visit the farm he had heard so much about. There were conditions, however. The prince wanted to meet local children during his visit, but they had to be “sensibly aged.” The prince planned to talk to them while they were doing activities on the farm, Jackson said.

All in all, the visit went well. Jackson felt a brief stab of anxiety when Charles touched an old wall on one of the farm’s buildings. The wall had been looking a bit “dodgy,” and was close to collapsing. Charles thought it was great. The wall eventually fell, but not during the royal visit.

“It would have been bad if we’d managed to kill him,” she said with a grin.

The visit generated a huge amount of publicity for the farm. Only two members of the press actually followed the prince, but the story was sent out to local and regional media, who keep referring back to his visit, she said.

The children had a blast. One of them went up to the prince and asked him if he was the one who made those biscuits. (Charles created Duchy Originals, an organic food company, in 1992. Its biscuits are quite popular.)

The prince said yes. The child told him his biscuits were “blooming marvelous.” Charles laughed.

“He does have a sense of humor, underneath all the stiffness,” Jackson said.

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