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27 November 2017

If you look carefully you will see rows of onions beginning to appear. As a sad old man this is a sight that fills me with joy. As you can see, Gem looks rather bored, while Molly looks as if she is contemplating her recent near death experience at the hand of onions.

A couple of weeks ago we were contacted by Cbeebies asking if they could film some opening and closing sequences for ‘Down on the Farm’. Initially we were quite enthusiastic and felt the publicity could only do us good. We then watched a few episodes on the iPlayer and started to have second thoughts. In common with most agricultural programmes aimed at the General Public, the image portrayed of farming is relentlessly optimistic. Farming is like life itself, there’s good days and bad days, easy days and unrelentingly gruelling days. Days when the stock all seem to be in rude good health and days when one of them inexplicably may drop dead. I’ll give you an example of how the general public are deceived – you must have noticed how in any TV sequence shot in a livestock shed, the animals are always bedded on straw that looks as it had been harvested just a few hours before – golden, fresh and above all clean. Come back in a day or two and the same straw will be covered in dung, trampled flat and on its way to becoming farmyard manure. For some reason, this is never shown on TV.

Similarly when the Cbeebies team was out last week doing a reconnaissance for the program, I took them down to the vegetable field where I had been harvesting parsnips earlier. The ground was waterlogged and the parsnips reluctantly came out of the ground with an audible ‘gloop’.  I wanted to be reassured that any filming done at Ballylagan was a true reflection of life on the farm. I commented to the producer that their presenter was always immaculately turned out and his boots always clean. I suggested that they weren’t being entirely honest with their viewers. ‘They’re only kids, we don’t want to scare them off.’  I seldom watch Countryfile, but in any episode I have watched, their lens also seems to be rose tinted. I struggle to differentiate between this sort of TV and fake news, and to deceive children seems especially pernicious.

I’m not a social media fan, but I am aware of a similar phenomenon with Facebook, where perfectly normal, no more than averagely miserable teenagers are made even more miserable when they contemplate the idealised postings of their contemporaries.  This gave me an idea:  that we should post a series of short videos on our Facebook page, illustrating what life here is really like – the good the bad and the ugly.

See you soon.