I am sure that we are not the only farmers to be totally exasperated by the coverage we get from a great cross section of the media including that once doyen of the truth the BBC.
For much of the time we are very much on the back foot as lobby group after lobby group hurl their accusations on a myriad of ills that they put firmly at our door without us having the opportunity to put over our side of the argument.
So, when the opportunity arose for us to take part in a week’s broadcasts by BBC Breakfast to speak out on a range of current issue’s we jumped at it.
On August 11th a cameraman & producer arrived at the farm to prepare a short lead into the articles that would be filmed on the week beginning 19th August. This was to introduce & engage the viewing public to the Stanley family at Springbarrow. Our initial reticence was soon overcome by the bubbly young producer Josh who wanted us to introduce ourselves & the dogs, say how long we had lived at the farm, & what we did. He had me seemingly popping up all around the field naming cows like a jack in a box, all rather eccentric! We were told that the weather would be presented with us on Wednesday, & I put in a request for Carol Kirkwood, Josh said he would see what he could do. After they had departed, we were left with the feeling of ‘what had we let ourselves in for.’
We felt this would be a wonderful opportunity to put the Longhorn Breed in front of a wider audience & so the night before filming a little product placement took place when we ensured that we had cattle in the front paddock to wander up and down.
August 19th dawned very early. In fact, the Breakfast Television sofa had already been installed in our garden by the time John & I got out of bed at 4.30 a.m, in readiness for the start of ‘Farm Focus’ at 6 a.m. complete with cushions they had produced with Blackbrook longhorns on them, very smart!
The cattle worked to cue and had a presence throughout.
The presenter for the first two days was Graham Satchall, and the topics he would be covering were Global warming & the contribution from Agriculture on the Monday & Crime in the Countryside on Wednesday. We sensed his detachment from Agriculture when we were introduced but thankfully this was to change over the span of his visit.
Guest speakers on the Monday were son Joe & Prof Lindsay Stringer of the University of Leeds who had sat on the IPPC Committee which had very recently made their findings public but which the media had cherry picked for their own agenda.
Throughout the time guest’s, presenters & crew were with us I kept up a steady stream of mugs of tea, coffee & bacon or cheese baps. This gave ample time to gather the views & opinions of everyone & proved to be both useful & thought provoking. Prof Stringer was lovely & although a vegetarian, actually stressed on air that it is not what you eat but where it is produced that makes a difference to our carbon footprint. She was completely in favour of the sustainable manner in which meat is produced in this country as apposed to the decimation of the Brazilian rainforest for the production of beef & crops for export.
We felt that Monday was a very productive day! Albeit that the airtime given over to interviews on the farm were cut short for more frivolous topics back at the studio in Manchester, much to the chagrin of the crew who were recording here.
Tuesday was filmed elsewhere & covered BREXIT.
Wednesday it was back to Springbarrow to talk about Genetically Modified food & coverage of the weather with the very lovely Carol Kirkwood. Carol turned out to be every bit as kind & fun as she appears to be & we had a really good experience with her.
We were genuinely amazed that after contacting the Met Office at 3.30 a.m she memorises what she has to say and there is no teleprompt for her to rely on. All this while meeting & interviewing strangers and putting them completely at ease. What a star she is!
I thoroughly enjoyed the interview she did with me.
As for GM it was kept to a very limited timetable, with a GM Scientist & an anti GM spokeswoman who had come from quite a distance being kept to a very short interview.
Thursday was again more productive when Countryside Crime was the agenda of the day with the slaughter & removal of sheep from farmer’s fields the main topic. The new presenter a lady called Sam Fenwick made a mistake from which it will take her quite some time to recover, calling one of our yearling bulls a sheep.
But more seriously a rural crime officer from North Wales was here to put over the very ugly face of crime in rural areas, & again John & Joe were interviewed on how it had impacted us.
Farming Focus drew to a close, the producer declared ‘that’s a wrap,’ the Thursday team gathered for a photo on the red sofa for the last time & then it was whisked away off to its next destination.
Well we tried to make a difference. We hope that people bought into what we are all doing in this great Industry of ours & that buying UK produce can only be good for us all especially the planet.
We were especially pleased to hear that Graham Satchell had perhaps changed his thoughts a little about what actually goes on, on farm.
He left us with a frightening thought that it is the current young generation that are taking the oath to save the planet and not eat meat, in much the same way that our generation wanted to ban the bomb. Only this time round media is king. It is instant & global & will have far reaching impacts on everything we do. Can any of us afford to sit on our hands & remain silent, perhaps if we do then we only have ourselves to blame when the soft target that is UK farming is no longer sustainable!