A new ABC programme, The Other Man’s Farm, starts on Sunday. Here JACK HARGREAVES, a Northern farming journalist, tells how television can help farmers
Most people associated with farming know farmers like to look over the fence to see what is happening on a neighbour’s farm. This is not idle curiosity. They look to learn.
Many progressive methods have been followed by farmers recently because, by looking over the fence, they have seen that they are an improvement on their own.
This has been strikingly demonstrated in the Penrith district of Cumberland. There, a young Agricultural Officer, E. J. Smith, found that he could not get advice to as many farmers as he knew could use it. So he enlisted the help of 12 farmers willing to use modern techniques provided they could be convinced of their effectiveness.
For two winters these farmers, known as Local Leaders, were given intensified training in farm management and grassland husbandry. They then began to introduce new systems on their farms — in every case most successfully.
Neighbouring farmers looked over the fence to see for themselves — and quickly adopted the ideas.
But the Cumberland experiment was confined to a small area: a neighbours fence miles away may be well worth looking over. And this is where Farming Television comes in, for it brings a farm 100 miles or more away, right into the home.
Northern and Midlands farmers are to have a series of agricultural programmes televised at an ideal time for the farmer — 3pm Sunday — one of the few times at which he usually has a little leisure and a chance to see what is happening on an other farm.
The programmes will come from farms in Cheshire, Yorkshire, Lancashire, Warwickshire and North Wales, and will cover most aspects of farming, from dairying and beef to arable cropping and hill sheep
But this is not going to be a strictly farmers’ programme. Nor is it intended to show examples of outstanding technical achievement. The idea is to present the other man’s farm (“live” as far as possible) without any frills.
Wisely, the promoters of this series are aiming at a wider public than farmers. The housewife and her husband will see for themselves the major role farming plays in their lives.
They will see — that is the operative word — that grass is something much more than the green stuff that grows in fields. Possibly they will be surprised to learn that upon the quality of the grass grown, and the efficiency of its harvesting and conservation for winter fodder, much of their own well-being depends, for grass is transformed by the cow and the sheep into the meat we eat, the milk we drink and the wool we put on our backs.
To a large extent the housewife dictates farm policy, for it is her preference for the small, lean joint, the creamy milk, or bacon with minimum fat, that causes trends in farming practice. The farmer has to sell his produce to the consumer — and consumer demand has now become a taskmaster.
A final word to the housewife: the cameras are going to look into one or two farm kitchens. This will be really worth watching. The farm kitchen is a joy, for it is a combination of working kitchen, with modern amenities, and a social meeting place where neighbours gather to talk things over. Looking in, and listening in, to these kitchens, will bring the breath of the countryside, its vitality and its true character, to the heart of industrial areas.
This should have been done long ago. I am glad ABC are doing it now.