The second series of the hit TV show First Time Farmers kicked off last night (7 August), attracting an average of 700,000 viewers and polarising opinions on Twitter.
Airing on Channel 4 at 10pm on Thursdays, the seven-part documentary series follows the lives of 12 young farmers from across Britain who, according to Channel 4, are “breathing life into the agricultural world, balancing hard work with finding time for love, laughter and partying”.
The first episode followed four farmers from Herefordshire, including brothers James and Richard Manning (pictured). It gave a glimpse of life on the farm, with slightly more focus put on their diversification projects and social lives.
People within the industry were split – some were disappointed with the party-focused coverage, while others said that glamorising farming was good because it would help attract new entrants. From the non-farmers on Twitter, it seemed a lot were genuinely interested and enjoying it.
The National Federation of Young Farmers (NFYFC) told Farmers Weekly: “NFYFC is pleased that a mainstream television channel is promoting the industry to younger people and the wider public. We understand this show is not really aimed at those already working in the agricultural sector, but we hope that in future episodes there is more focus on the real challenges and pressures young farmers face.”
Gareth Barlow, who rose to prominence after starting his own sheep business, said: “Programmes like this certainly have a place and a purpose. It will appeal to a new audience and potentially bring new entrants to the industry in a way that traditional or more mainstream programming might not. There was nothing in it that was detrimental to the industry.”
Whether viewers liked it or not, it definitely sparked conversation. We’ve captured some of the lively Twitter debate.
Review: ‘Not the most rounded portrayal – but full of passion’
It is great to see British agriculture on TV, and aimed at a younger audience.
It’s also fantastic to see coverage of diversification projects, highlighting that agriculture isn’t just farming.
Hayley Parrott, Farmlife reporter
The show didn’t present a stereotypical image of farming – there were no flat caps, tweed or “oo-arrrrs”. However, it was disappointing that Channel 4 chose to focus quite heavily on some of the phone calls and parties as opposed to everyday life. Yes, our industry needs a bit more glamorising to attract new entrants, but showing one farmer guessing what another one is wearing doesn’t really serve much purpose at all, does it?
One tweet demonstrated the series was helping to portray the more modern and innovative aspects of the job, saying: “Has he got a satnav in his tractor?”
The individuals themselves came across as hardworking and ambitious. They are good ambassadors for British agriculture and as one of them pointed out on Twitter last night: “I signed up for First Time Farmers to promote British Agriculture. We can’t control what they actually put on TV.”
It would be nice to see more of them talking to camera when they’re out on the farm. When James was focused on calving a cow successfully, his passion for his work was evident and he spoke knowledgeably.
In summary, it wasn’t the perfect, rounded portrayal of our industry, but it showed the passion of the next generation. And it got people, from both inside and outside the industry, talking.
This was only the first episode, and it was always going to be fairly light-hearted to be entertaining – Channel 4 want views. But there’s plenty of airtime left yet and hopefully some of it will show slightly more of the real work, hard graft, trials and tribulations, highs and lows of the great industry that we’re in.