This Farming Life



What is modern farming life really like? Do you picture rich landowners simply banking cheques from Europe or aging men struggling to produce food with no time off? In the first of a two-part series, Charlotte Smith - more commonly found challenging ministers on Farming Today - looks beyond the farm gate and follows the lives of several farmers through the Autumn season.

Peter Alvis' cheese-making business supplies an international market and is going from strength to strength. His brother Johnny runs the 1100 cow dairy, providing a large proportion of the milk but is paid the same rate as other suppliers. They want to increase cheese production by 50% but are desperate to find more local suppliers.

It's a different picture for Bob Hall. A year ago his home and farm were deluged by the Somerset floods. The farming community rallied to help those affected but his 250 strong herd is now just 70. When Charlotte meets him at the market he's finding new store cattle are too expensive and the year is pretty much lost. It's not just farming rhythms but family rhythms that have been hit. For his wife Sue the worst will only be over when she's back in her home and can have the extended family round for Sunday dinner.

Phil Dibble has a slightly more relaxed outlook, despite the pressures. He says his 180acre farm isn't viable like it was for his grandfather so he works part-time as a truck driver and he says his District Nurse wife is the real bread-winner. But their 19 year old son, Harry, has big ideas of how to turn the farm around and Phil's prepared to listen. His mum had hoped he'd see through his A-levels as a back up, and use his skill for Maths but Harry knows what he wants to do.

Presented by Charlotte Smith

Produced by Anne-Marie Bullock.


In the second of a two part series, Charlotte Smith follows three more farming families based around Sedgemoor Market in Somerset to look at the biggest challenges they face and how they're dealing with them.

Sam Passmore has just become a dad aged 41 and fatherhood has made him reflect on how his team can get a work/life balance while also experimenting with milking three times a day with his dairy herd. He and his own father have different ideas about how best to do things. Finding reliable milkers to work unsociable hours is something of a challenge.

Meanwhile Jeremy Walker likes to wear several hats, on top of being a farmer. While he keeps an eye on the harvest and the chickens, he's also a magistrate, committee member and soon-to-be mentor. But as he turns 70, he's not happy at being retired from certain roles as "To retire is to expire".

John Small is several years past 'official' retirement age but still has 1500 sheep to see to. He hopes a 'share farming' venture will help a talented shepherdess expand her flock and help him ease off the pressure but do farmers like him ever really retire?

All three are also facing pressures on their land - with losses to nature and development, tenancies being reviewed or finding places for the sheep to graze, Charlotte asks them how they're managing to keep their businesses afloat.

Presented by Charlotte Smith

Produced by Anne-Marie Bullock.