First Time Farmers: Review


First Time Farmers,

Channel 4, Friday 11 Jan, 8PM

First Time Farmers. It’s from the makers of Made in Chelsea, but here’s the catch, it’s about young farmers, not the typically spoiled rich people who, perplexingly, so many viewers seem to love to watch during a recession.

In fact, despite the “from the makers of Made in Chelseaâ€? tag, there are, fortunately, very few similarities between the two shows — not that this is immediately evident.

Episode one of the new series takes us to Herefordshire, where we meet Robbie, Ed and Nick—three rather posh young farmers with three very different attitudes towards their profession.

As the boys jovially bomb around a field in clapped-out hatchbacks, the camera dramatically pauses on each of our farmers, as if we’re watching an episode of Countryfile that’s been directed by Guy Ritchie.

Robbie, we’re told, as his name is spelled out across the screen, runs a struggling pig farm with his mother; Ed has recently returned to farming after a stint in the big city; and Nick is a fourth generation farmer who just wants to escape the family business.

Having worked as a trainee auctioneer for a short time, Nick’s sure that farming isn’t what he wants to do with his life. It’s hard work, he explains, often for very little money, and there’s rarely enough time to go on holiday.

Indeed, an older farmer who is interviewed throughout the programme confirms what Nick says. It’s not easy, he admits, but he wouldn’t have it any other way, and country life certainly beats working in the city.

It was, in fact, a hot and sweaty London tube that made Ed decide to come back to the country, although now that he’s back on the farm, he seems to be having second thoughts. His girlfriend currently lives in London and leaving her, as well as his well-paid job, hasn’t been easy for him.

More optimistic is Robbie, who despite the fact that business is slow, seems to wholeheartedly enjoy his job. And, indeed, it is hard to doubt that it does look as if Robbie has it pretty good. After all, he gets to look after cute lambs and tiny piglets; what could be more rewarding?

But then you realise, of course, as the camera cuts to an entire pig being sliced instantly into two pieces, that his profession is probably not for the faint hearted — or at least, not for me.

It’s no surprise that at the end of the day our three farmers like to hit their local boozer for what Robbie affectionately calls a “pub sessionâ€?. Nick, in fact, is so partial to a few pints that he even owns a t-shirt proclaiming him to be “The Lager Knightâ€? — a noble upholder of getting trashed.

It’s easy to forget, given the burdening responsibility that these three farmers carry with them, that these men are still only young. Each of them offer a different insight into farming, but all of them are essentially in the same position, as they attempt to juggle being young with long hours, stress and hard work.

What at first seems like another style over substance Channel 4 documentary about middle-class twenty-somethings, turns out to be surprisingly revealing and very well-considered, due largely to the farmers involved and their varying outlooks on what they hope to do with their lives.