• The Farming Community in Crisis: The information needs of Cumbrian Farmers during the UK 2001 foot and mouth outbreak and the role of information and communication technologies (ICTs)

      Hagar, Chris (2005-12)
      The UK 2001 foot and mouth disease (FMD) outbreak constituted the biggest crisis ever to affect the UK farming system; it was one of the worst epidemics of its kind in the world. Farmers and rural communities were disrupted and traumatized as FMD spread rapidly through the whole of the country. The crisis unfolded as a series of information and communication problems, primarily from government to farmers with consequences for action in a time of crisis. This study explores the multiple informational needs that faced the Cumbrian farming community, during the crisis. Already geographically remote and isolated farming communities suffered â isolation within isolationâ . As biosecurity measures were implemented to control the spread of the disease, the places where farmers usually meet to communicate and exchange information, either shut down or became inaccessible. It investigates how farmers accessed the information they needed to deal with the crisis and examines the factors which made information seeking difficult. A mixed method approach was used of semi-structured interviews with members of farming house-holds supported by document analysis of a number of publicly available resources. Results highlighted the importance of: changes in information needs at different stages of the crisis; context in which information seeking took place; overlap of information and emotional needs; formal and informal channels of information seeking during the crisis; farmers as information providers as well as information seekers; sense-making approach to information seeking during the crisis; trusted information sources; the need for a mix of ICTs during the crisis; ICTs as a catalyst for innovation during the crisis; place and space and new venues and meeting places for communities in a crisis and providing a local response (The Pentalk Network www.pentalk.org ) to a national crisis.