James Manning (right) joins Harvest 2015 presentersJames Manning (right) joins Harvest 2015 presenters © BBC/Carl Pendle

The TV show Harvest 2015 is scheduled to be screened next month on BBC Two.

The show, which proved a massive hit with farmers when it made its debut in 2013, will return for a new three-part series.
Joining the presenting team alongside Gregg Wallace and Philippa Forrester, is James Manning, a 28-year-old farmer from north Herefordshire.

Farmers Weekly’s Tim Relf asked James some questions about his farming background and his new role on the TV screen.

Tell us about your farming connections

I’m from a family that has farming in every single part of our family tree – it wasn’t long ago that every arm of my family was involved in dairy farming but now it’s more varied. I still live in rural Herefordshire and both farming and food are things I am incredibly passionate about.

Can TV make a difference to how the public views farmers?

Any platform where we can showcase the importance of farming in its true form, which is ultimately to feed our nation, will always make a big difference. How things are shown on TV is only a small part of a very big pie. Education in where our food comes from has got to be one of the strongest statements that we, as farmers, need to make for the future.

How did you get the presenting job?

I was involved in a TV programme called First Time Farmers on Channel 4 a couple of years ago, and I like to think that the successful delivery of two Holstein heifer calves live on camera helped put my name forward.

During our BBC interview we were asked to do a freestyle piece to camera – I chose to show how to make a Cider Mojito. Unfortunately I got so excited by doing it on camera, I smashed the glass with my cocktail stirrer and had to try and wangle my way out of it on camera. Maybe that was my point of difference.

What was the highlight of being involved with the show?

That’s an easy one for me, meeting the farmers and their teams of staff. I’ve always completely loved farm tours, but when you get the chance to talk farming and food for days on end all over the country… I was in heaven.

What’s the single most useful thing that working on the show has taught you?

I learnt a lot from exploring each farm, but the single most important thing was control. For a farm to make the most out of what it grows and produces it must have control throughout the supply chain. 

What traits do farmers need to be successful?

I think the required traits of farmers are changing massively as the world around us changes. From what I can see, it’s the farmers who think outside the box, and really push their business who strive forward the most. Working hard is only a small trait; combine that with creative and strategic thinking and I think the combination is deadly.

Is there a future for dairy farmers?

A massive future. Not only because of the increasing global population, but because the fashion of what we eat and drink is changing and evolving so quickly. The dairy farmers of the future are the ones who will turn their milk into a food fashion itself – something different, something exciting and most of all something good – watch this space.

What job would you have done if you weren’t a farmer?

Well, as well as being involved in the family farm, I also run an events bar business with my brother and we have a restaurant-bar in Hereford, too. We are developing this as a tool to control the produce we can grow and produce on the farm.

We want something fun and exciting through which we can sell everything that we can produce; well that’s the big goal.

Tell us something about yourself not many people know

I managed to scrape through my Grade Eight trumpet a good while ago now.

When I discovered rugby at school my trumpet practising fell by the wayside – much to Mum’s frustration.

Are you going to go all Hollywood on us now?

I live and work on a farm in rural Herefordshire, my office struggles to pick up phone signal and internet. I think I’m pretty safe for the time being.