Adam Henson is in Snowdonia to discover how farming has changed in the past 60 years, with the help of some recently unearthed BBC archive.
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Welcome to Snowdonia, where the landscape never ceases to amaze me.
With some of the country's most dramatic scenery,
Snowdonia is not only home to the highest peak in Wales but to
some of the most challenging farmland in Britain.
At first glance, this ancient landscape and the lives of
those living here has barely changed in centuries.
But is that really the case?
Thanks to a recently unearthed BBC documentary filmed here
in 1956, I'll be able to see exactly how farming's changed here
in the past 60 years.
'Sheep farming here is very different from sheep farming down on
'the smooth pastures of the lowlands.'
While I'm here, I'll be looking back through the Countryfile archives, to
the times we discovered farming in all its glory - then and now...
..from the time Matt experienced the handiwork of a true pioneer...
Oh, this is the life!
..to when Helen took a trip into the past...
I'm really sorry, but I've missed the line, haven't I?
-That's me profit gone!
..and the time I met the futuristic farmers growing deep underground.
My word, Steven, this is just incredible!
At the heart of Snowdonia National Park,
a few miles south-west of Capel Curig, is the Nant Gwynant Valley...
..its spectacular slopes crowned by rugged peaks,
including Snowdon itself.
It was here in 1956 that dapper broadcaster Christopher Chataway
arrived, like an astronaut landing on an alien planet,
to make a film called Away From It All.
'So many people love mountains, so many people visit mountains,
'yet so few go to live there.
'I went to the north Welsh mountains to find out what chance
'a townsman would have of settling there for good.'
Chris Chataway came here as a "townsman", as he called himself,
to see if he could carve a new life among these mountains.
The resulting film gave a fascinating insight into the
recent history of farming and a snapshot of the way of life,
seemingly unchanged for generations.
One of Chataway's interviews was with Piers Williams,
a well-respected sheep farmer who owned Hafod y Llan,
a 4,000-acre farm in the southern end of the valley.
I hear that sheep farmers are doing very well this year here.
-Is that right?
-Well, it's a bit too early to say that now,
because we haven't sold any stock yet.
The farm is familiar to thousands of hill walkers as the start of
the famously challenging Watkin Path up Snowdon.
And it's a place I've come to know myself over the years,
as I've already been here three times for Countryfile.
But until now, I had no idea that the BBC had sent
a predecessor of mine here six decades ago.
Since 1998, the National Trust has run the farm.
Tristan Edwards is the Trust's area manager for Snowdonia.
-These are lovely Welsh black cattle, aren't they?
They are really suited to this farm, and they look the part.
So, what did you know about Piers Williams when he was
a previous owner of the estate here?
Well, yeah, he was a tremendous character, and they'd been here as
a family for generations, and he was right there at the vanguard of
And why was it that the National Trust came to buy the estate?
This is a really important landscape.
There's a national nature reserve here, it's a Site of
Special Scientific Interest, it has all the designations going on it.
But critically, it's a key part of the Snowdon summit,
so it's really important for the general conservation of the
landscape as a whole.
So, in Piers's day, it was all about production to feed a starving
nation post-war, but now you're much more about conservation.
I don't think Piers would be surprised
that this is what we are doing.
I'm sure he'd be doing the same thing,
because whilst there is some food, people also want a good,
healthy environment in which that food is created.
So we've reduced the sheep numbers,
because they were quite high in the past.
There were limited cattle numbers here.
And the effect of that was quite a lot of molinia, tall grass
that the sheep weren't interested in.
The cattle are sort of chomping
away at it, so it's creating a more mixed sward.
And do you think Piers would be surprised to see,
you know, the technology in the sheds and all those sorts of things?
He'd have loved it, I would have thought. "I could have done with far
"fewer workers!" And he have loved some of the tractors and so on.
But certainly it's progressive,
and he would have been right for it, and I'm sure, you know, if he was
a generation further on, he'd have been doing the same thing exactly.
Although the flock size has been greatly reduced, you'll still find
hundreds of sheep dotted around the valley's steep slopes each summer.
Right now, though, most of the flock are away,
overwintering on various farms down in the lowlands,
partly because it's so wet up here but also because they want to save
what little grass they HAVE got for the ewes and lambs in the spring.
'For Elgan Jones, a shepherd here,
'winter is spent not out on the hills but getting stuck in
'with the kind of chores I recognise from home.'
My word! Do you ever get used to this weather?
-I don't know!
I don't think you get used to it.
You get less disappointed when you wake up in the morning.
You just get hardened to it!
So, with the tractors, obviously, you know,
on a lowland farm we've got big tractors and lots of arable.
-Different machines down here.
-Oh, yeah, this probably looks like
a Dinky toy compared to what you've got at home, doesn't it?
You don't need anything big round here, really. Small, compact...
Nimble, to be able to get in and out of these little sheds.
-So, what's this one here? That's an unusual-looking machine.
Yeah, this is an Alpine tractor.
It's got a low centre of gravity, so it'll go on steep bits.
And then there's twin wheels to put on it
that'll do wetlands, as well.
-A lot of the farm here is just hillside and mountain.
Very little low ground.
'Machinery like this has certainly made life in the hills
'a little easier.'
Look at this beauty!
You can trace the history of those modern-day tractors right
back to sweet little machines like this Fergie TE20
that's been working in this valley
since 1951 and is still going strong.
So it was definitely around when Chris Chataway made his film
here, and it's just like the tractor that Matt drove up in the
Cotswolds a couple of years ago. Right, let's take it for a spin.
MATT: Whether it's upland, lowland, arable or dairy,
at the heart of every farm is the tractor.
Today, there are more than 200 tractor manufacturers.
But few, if any, have had such an impact as my farming hero...
Often described as a genius,
Ferguson was a remarkable man whose talents knew no bounds.
Whether he was designing racing cars,
being the first Briton to build and fly his own aeroplane
or revolutionising farming with his Ferguson System,
Harry's brilliance lay in simple, efficient designs that worked
and stood the test of time.
I've come to the Drinkwaters' family farm in the Cotswolds to meet
two brothers who are self-confessed Fergie fanatics,
and I'm going to find one of them in here.
Andy, are you there? Ah, tinkering away. How are you? Nice to see you.
-Pleased to meet you, Matt.
-This is some place.
Every bit of available space there's either a tractor
or an implement parked in it.
When did this and WHY did this all start?
Well, we were brought up on these Ferguson tractors
and tractors like this, and that's what Dad had when we were kids.
We've just grown up with them.
Looking at the collection, it was this tractor here, wasn't it,
at the front, that was the real game changer?
Yes, it was the little grey Fergie, the TE20.
It just revolutionised farming.
-'No-one had brought out a piece of machinery which was
'as simple to control as a draught animal.
'This, however, has now been made a practical possibility
'by the Ferguson tractor, operated with the Ferguson System.'
'The little grey Fergie hit the fields in 1946,
'launching modern tractor technology that has never been bettered
'and is still being used today.'
Oh, this is the life!
What a beautiful, beautiful tractor!
For the first time, tractors became part of the implements
as opposed to just dragging them. This was Harry's genius.
'All right, what IS the Ferguson System?
'The Ferguson System gives you a three-point,
'one-minute method of attaching or detaching implements.
'How about that?'
It was Ferguson's three-point linkage
that truly revolutionised farming
and meant that his little grey tractor could do a whole wealth
of jobs on and off the farm.
'Instead of carrying heavy pieces of wood to the saw,
'you can take the saw into the forest, if necessary.'
'Harry's design was a phenomenal success.
'By 1951, he controlled a staggering 65% of the worldwide tractor market.
'The factory in Coventry
'was producing more than 300 TE20s every day.
'Harry's right-hand man and driver at the time was Peter Warr.'
What's it like for you here, Peter,
to be surrounded by all of these tractors?
It's bringing back lots of memories.
It was the Ferguson, which is good.
Everything was geared round the farmer.
The dealers had to stock all the necessary spares
so that the tractor was off the road for the shortest possible time.
And that's what he built it on - the good servicing and the aftercare.
How did he, in his mind,
try and convince farmers that this was the bit of kit to get?
He did lots of demonstrations and things like that.
He'd go to the farmer and demonstrate.
I think that's basically how he got the message over,
and often competed against other tractors
and other forms of cultivation.
One of Harry's competitions was called Cultivating the Square.
It was designed to show how the little grey Fergie could work
in the tightest of spaces, an area too small even for a horse to work.
So, in the spirit of Mr Ferguson,
watched on by Andy's brother Pete and our umpire Peter,
Andy and I are going to give it a go.
-Oh, hang on!
-Three, two, one!
JAUNTY BANJO MUSIC PLAYS
Oh, gosh, that was quick, he's in there already.
Tortoise and the hare.
-He's making his first run.
-He's a bit close to the post, isn't he?
Oh, he's done his second row already. Right.
Andrew's got the post down. Right.
It's ever such a tight square, this.
Matt seems to have got the hang of it now, doesn't he?
-I like the way he's got his tongue out. Have you noticed?
-Very good, Matt.
-Do you think we did him proud?
-Very proud indeed. He'd be pleased. He'd be pleased.
ADAM: I'm visiting another farm, Gwastadanas in Snowdonia,
looking back at farming then and now.
When broadcaster Christopher Chataway came here 61 years ago,
he spoke to local sheep farmer Piers Williams.
You're in the middle of the shearing?
We're in the middle of the shearing, yes.
-And when will you have finished?
Well...end of next week. Depends on the weather, doesn't it?
Today, Bedwyr Jones and his family manage the farm.
Bedwyr's been a tenant here for 20 years.
And I'm intrigued to find out what Bedwyr makes of that
interview that was carried out on this farm 60 years ago.
-Bedwyr, good to meet you.
-And you. How are you?
Are you close to lambing?
-Just started today, yeah. First one today.
Now, what did you make of that footage all those years ago?
Similarities to their concerns back then, similar to ours today,
I'd say. Not a lot has changed, I suppose.
Is it easy to make a living here, would you say?
Well, if you think about going in for hill sheep farming,
you've got to be prepared to stay at home and wear old clothes!
-It's harder than lowland farming?
-Oh, yes, much harder.
Would most farmers here be glad to go to the lowlands, if they could?
Well, I don't know.
There are many instances of hill farmers that have gone down
to the lowlands and they never returned back to the hills.
You'll never get a lowland farmer coming uphill.
The hill farmers are going downhill all the time.
You've got to think outside the box.
We've expanded, keeping more sheep and more cattle.
Genetically, as well, we will try and improve the flock, as well.
-Is mutton as profitable now as it used to be before the war?
Competition, partly, from abroad?
Probably, yes, from New Zealand and Australia.
I've got friends that are farming in New Zealand.
They're struggling to make a living out of sheep farming there, as well.
I'm sure if we worked together a bit more,
there'd be room for us both in the world market, I'd say.
Do you find any difficulty in getting young people,
Oh, yes, there is a scarcity.
The number that we have, they're very good men.
There's not a lot of young people about.
A lot of farms will struggle to get the next generation to come through.
If you took a 30-mile radius from here, there's not many
farmers' sons or daughters that want to farm in these hills.
Are some moving to the lowlands?
Oh, yeah, or taking other jobs, I suppose, yeah.
Farming's a hard life up here. It's not for the faint-hearted.
Bedwyr and his family are part of
a farming tradition that goes back generations.
Keeping this way of life alive in the 21st century isn't easy.
It takes passion and perseverance, qualities Helen discovered
when she visited a farm in the Lake District last summer.
HELEN: The beginning of the 20th century saw the arrival of tractors
powered by petrol and diesel.
Before then, our farmland was shaped and cultivated
by horse and steam power.
You may think that as soon as mechanisation came along,
working horses became redundant,
but actually there was a time at the turn of the century
when old and new worked side by side.
And here at Old Hall Farm in Cumbria, they still do.
Husband and wife Alex and Charlotte Sharphouse
are combining their two passions.
Charlotte loves working with heavy horses,
whilst Alex prefers something a bit more up-to-date.
-Who is this fella?
-This is Troy.
Now, talk me through how you got to this point in your life.
Ten years ago, we bought this derelict farm,
and we set about farming a traditional Lakeland farm.
And it's all about the forgotten skills, the forgotten arts,
-So it's still a working farm?
It's still a working farm. We farm it traditionally.
We've just got about 120 acres.
So, a traditional farm would have done a bit of dairy,
a bit of arable, a bit of beef.
Troy's raring to go, and I'm also being put to work.
It's time to harvest some potatoes.
Come on, Troy. Come on, lad. Back up.
Just want to go up through the ring.
We've got this, Troy.
-We're away. Teamwork now. Walk on.
-So I just have to...?
-Steer where the potatoes are.
-Aim down the middle.
I've gone a bit off track, haven't I?
I'm really sorry, but I've missed the line, haven't I?
-That's me profit gone!
Walk on, Troy. Walk on. Good boy.
Towards the end of the 19th century, horses were being replaced
and this was a more familiar scene on farms across the land.
This is where Alex comes into his own.
These are unbelievable! So, what do you do with these?
These are a pair of ploughing engines.
You can see the two massive winch drums underneath the engines.
You park the engine each side of the field
and pull the implement between them.
It was the very first form of mechanisation,
after the horse, with steam.
It revolutionised, really, land cultivation on a decent scale.
'A year ago, Alex and his team
'took on their most ambitious project yet...
'It's considered to be the king of the steam world.
'At the turn of the 20th century,
'it was the ultimate vehicle for heavy haulage and farm work.
'With only one left in existence,
'Alex is attempting the formidable task
'of making his very own Talisman from scratch.'
This is a serious-looking piece of kit. What is happening here?
This is the front, the smoke box,
where the wheels fit underneath on the axle.
-So...can I help?
-Yeah, you certainly can.
We're going to have a go at putting some rivets in.
'Alex has got to a pivotal point in his build.
'Talisman is about to take shape.
'Now for my part in the process. I hope I don't mess it up.'
Don't drop it. As fast as you can.
Don't... Don't hurry me.
Oh, right, I see what you mean about making it fast.
Oh, when you said, "Hurry up,"
I was like, "Why are you rushing me? This is a tricky business."
-But you need it to be hot, right?
-It's got to be hot.
Just put it down now.
Impressive. Well done. Look how happy you are!
PLOUGHING ENGINE WHISTLES
'With Talisman well under way, I want to see what it feels like
'to be behind the wheel of one of these remarkable machines.'
-You've really got to put a bit of welly into this, haven't you?
You know, for most people, steam power and hoof power are outdated,
but one thing you cannot argue with
is that this farm is powered by passion.
PLOUGHING ENGINE WHISTLES
ADAM: 'You can still find an abundance of passion - and rain -
'here on the farms of the Nant Gwynant Valley in North Wales.
'But there's one ancient practice you definitely won't see.'
Back in 1956, it was still common practice to wash the fleeces
while they were on the sheep.
And sheep washing here in Snowdonia was a particularly dramatic affair.
'After the gathering and dipping and ear marking comes the
'washing of the sheep to get the grease out of the wool.
'A year's profit or loss is at stake,
'and the farmers want to be fairly sure the mountains and the weather
'haven't ruined their living before they stop to talk to you about it.'
'Extraordinary! I'm glad my flock doesn't have to go through that.
'I'm heading for the exact spot
'where Chris Chataway filmed the sheep washing.
'With me is local wool expert Elfyn Owen.'
Well, this is great!
So this is the spot where they used to push the sheep down onto
the platform and into the water.
-Yes. It's a fantastic set-up, isn't it?
And they would have used this walled pen to force the sheep down
-onto the platform and in, would they?
They built it specially for the job.
It's something I've only ever seen on film or photographs of.
-Have you seen it in real life?
-Yes, I used to help my dad,
and we used to swim with the sheep to clean them up.
And, well, it's hard to believe
-nowadays that it was done.
And why were they washing them? Just to clean the fleece?
Yes, to get the vegetable matter out, any dirt that was in the
fleece and to get the grease out of the fleece.
For shearing time, they wanted the wool to rise,
so it was easier when the hand shears were used.
So they'd gather them,
-wash them, leave them for a few days and then hand-shear them.
Nowadays, we're using electric shearing machines and we
don't wash the sheep.
The merchants realised that the grease was worth something,
so they wanted us not to wash the sheep
so that they would take the grease out themselves, really.
The grease is known as lanolin, isn't it?
It's really good in hand creams and face creams.
-They use it in lint for burns, all sorts, now.
-It's a valuable product.
They do a bit of money off that at the moment.
It's a pity the wool prices are not that good, as they used to be.
As you know yourself, coming from the Cotswolds,
there was a lot of wealth around the wool and the sheep industry,
but things changed, probably in the 18th century,
more emphasis on producing meat for the growing population then,
Amazing to see places like this that still exist.
You wouldn't want to chuck a sheep in there today, though,
with the water running as fast as it is?
-No, it is a bit rough today!
Well, thank you very much for showing me. It's great to see.
Farming never stands still.
It's always in transition and driven by innovation.
And there are few schemes more innovative than the one
I visited last year - underground!
I've come to Clapham in London,
the last place you'd expect to find fresh, local produce.
Check this out. You don't get much fresher than this.
And believe it or not, it was grown right beneath where I'm standing.
12 storeys down is an urban farm,
and to find out more, I'm going under the streets of London.
This place is just extraordinary. It's actually a bit spooky.
It's this huge underground tunnel.
It's not what I was expecting at all.
And there doesn't seem to be a farm in sight.
'To discover what on earth is going on down here,
'I'm meeting with West Country man Steven Dring...
'if I can find him.'
-Here's someone now. Is that you, Steven?
-It is indeed, yes.
-Good to meet you.
-How are you?
What an extraordinary place. What is it?
This used to be a World War II air-raid shelter.
All the way throughout this tunnel,
there would have been bunk beds, medical centres,
sort of dining areas
to feed 8,000 Londoners hiding down here during the war.
So while it was being flattened upstairs by bombs,
-they were safe down here?
AIR-RAID SIREN WAILS
RUMBLING And what's that noise?
That would be the Northern line about four storeys above us.
-My word, Steven, this is just incredible!
So, what's going on in here, then?
So, we're just using hydroponics and LEDs
and traditional agricultural equipment
just to produce leafy greens and salads and herbs.
'These plants have been selected because they're quick-growing
'and can be harvested within days.'
And you've got a whole range of plants here,
-lots of different colours.
We've got some really dark burgundy in the red basil over here.
Then we've got some salad rocket, beautiful green salad rocket.
We're growing about 20 products.
We've got some coriander, pea shoots, parsley, celery.
-So, yeah, a full range of products.
'With an ever-increasing population and a limited amount of land,
'could this be a potential solution for growing crops?
'Horticultural director Chris Nelson
'has the challenge of making this system work.'
Hi, Chris. Steven tells me you're the expert
when it comes to growing this kind of stuff.
Yes, I've had a lifetime of growing crops,
but not necessarily in a tunnel 33 metres underground.
And you're growing 20 different varieties.
-That must be a challenge.
There's a certain amount of logistics
that you have to work out -
when to sow, when to put into dark and when to bring in the lights.
They range... So, what we're looking at here
only takes three days under the lights,
but something like that one over there is 15 days under lights.
'The clever thing about using LED lighting
'is that the colour range of lights can be altered
'not only to optimise plant growth but flavour, too.'
-And hydroponics, so grown in water.
It all comes from downstairs,
so underneath here is a range of tanks, pumps and feed tanks
that comes in through there and it floods up
and it comes under there.
-And you can see here - just an amazing root system.
'Chris shows me where it all starts.
'The seeds are sown onto a kind of special carpet.'
So, here we are in the dark propagation area.
I'll just turn on some lights for you.
'They're then transferred to a darkroom
'to replicate conditions under the soil.'
-So, from here, it goes into the LED lights to get it sprouting?
And from there, it goes to harvesting,
which you haven't seen yet.
-Shall we go and take a look at that?
-Go and have a look.
Here we are - we're coming up to where we do the harvesting,
which is a really simple process.
We use a very, very sharp knife,
which Daniel here is cutting through the product,
and just as simple as that.
-How old is this plant, then?
-It's about ten days old.
You can see here it's quite seed thick.
-And what is it?
-That's garlic chives.
-You can smell it.
-Mm! Really strong flavour.
-It is, isn't it?
-Quite a kick to it.
'So all that's left is to pack them into containers
'and take them up to the world above.'
Oh, it's bright sunshine out here!
Yeah, a little bit brighter than downstairs, yeah.
Thank you. Cheers.
Do you think this is the future?
I think reusing spaces and utilising spaces like we've got downstairs
and expanding that area that we've got to grow,
for a growing population,
I think this is always going to be complementary to farming.
-It's been fascinating to meet you. Good luck.
-All the best.
From the futuristic tunnels of
London to the timeless beauty of Snowdonia.
When Christopher Chataway visited this valley back in 1956, one of the
most memorable interviews he carried out
was with a young farmer, Lucy Jones.
I'm delighted to say not only have we found Lucy but I get to
show her the interview she did here,
and she hasn't seen it since it was broadcast 61 years ago.
HE KNOCKS ON DOOR
'I'm meeting Lucy at Gwastadanas Farm, where she grew up,
'now run by tenant farmer Bedwyr Jones, who I met earlier.'
Right, then, Lucy, we've got our cups of tea.
-Are you sitting comfortably?
-Yes, thank you.
'I went to the north Welsh mountains to find out what chance
'a townsman would have of settling there for good.'
-That's my father.
-That's your dad?
'..sheep farming down on the smooth pastures of the lowlands.
'David Jones' farm stretches for thousands of acres over the
'slopes of Lliwedd, Garnedd Ugain, Crib Goch...'
What's it like, seeing him?
'At gathering time,
'his calls can be heard echoing back from the seven peaks of his farm.'
HIS SHOUTS ECHO
-And this is out in the hills behind us.
-Yes, indeed. Yes.
'It takes days rounding up all the sheep on a farm like this.'
Why do you think it is that the young people are leaving?
Well, there are many reasons, I suppose.
-But perhaps you better ask Miss Lucy Jones about that.
-All right, I will.
-Thank you very much.
-Miss Lucy Jones!
-Lucy Jones, yes.
Do you think that sheep farming does provide
a good life for the younger people?
Oh, yes, I think so, but not many people seem to think so these days.
What's it like seeing yourself?
-What are your plans for the future?
-Oh, I hope to marry a farmer.
And you've got one in mind?
-Oh, yes, I have!
-And you would farm up here in the hills, would you?
If possible, yes, but it's not very easy to get a hill farm these days.
-You had one in mind?
-I did have one in mind!
-Did you find him?
-And you married him?
-Yes, I did.
-And where is he now?
-He's over there. Come here.
-Let's have a look.
-Let's have a look at you.
-Lovely to meet you.
-Pleased to meet you.
-The man of her dreams!
-That's right, yes.
So, Lucy, you found your dream man.
Did you find your dream farm and manage to stay in this valley?
No. No, we didn't do that,
because every farm we fancied just went out of our reach.
You know, there's a limit to how much you can afford to pay.
And my father wasn't a great one for borrowing money, you know?
In those days, I don't think people did.
So we went for the shop, and it worked out very well for us,
-It did, yes.
-What was the shop?
-It was the grocer's shop.
-So no regrets.
-No, we don't have any regrets.
-We were there for 27 years.
You're the secretary of the Young Farmers' Club.
Do you learn there a great deal of modern scientific farming methods?
Oh, yes. We have a lot of conferences and a lot of lectures.
Stressful at times, you know.
You were forever having to make speeches about something or other.
And you had to sound very enthusiastic about everything,
which you weren't all the time.
But it was a lovely, lovely introduction to, well,
a bit of social life, you know?
Otherwise you'd have been stuck,
you wouldn't have had anything to fall back on.
-So you had dances to go to?
-Oh, yes, dances.
-Did you get up to a bit of mischief?
-Every now and then!
Not like they do now!
In our time, I suppose we did.
Do you think that science has got a great deal to teach you?
Do you think that there are other strains of grass and kinds of
things like that, that a great deal could be done here?
No, not really. Everything that can be done is being done already.
You don't think that most of these new methods have any application?
No, not really, not for the mountains. Not in Snowdonia, anyway.
'Well, Lucy Jones is a charmer but no scientist.'
What do you think of THAT comment?!
That's all right. I can live with that!
"A charmer but no scientist"!
-You were right about the mountains, though, weren't you?
-Yes, I was. I was, wasn't I?
-There's not much you can do up there.
-No, not a lot.
-And what was he like as a gentleman?
-He was very nice.
It must have been quite a culture shock for him to come into
a shed like ours!
I thought you spoke beautifully there about, you know,
your life and your aspirations and the young farmers and what
can be done in farming.
You know, you obviously had a good grasp of it.
Well, I was brought up to it, wasn't I?
That's all I knew.
-Yes, that's all I knew.
Like Lucy, I look back on my time as a young farmer very fondly,
and every new generation of young farmers brings something
exciting and special to the countryside.
And that youthful vitality and enthusiasm is something
I think we should celebrate.
So I'm launching the search for Countryfile's Young Farmer of
the Year, and I want your help.
So, what is it that makes young farmers so special?
They come in all guises,
working all hours for the welfare of their animals,
impressing us with their dedication and skills.
Young farmers are not only the next custodians of our beautiful
landscape, they're also our food producers and innovators of
Of course, all farmers were young once, even yours truly,
and whether you were born into it, like me, or come from outside
farming and choose it as a career, it's important to learn.
'Agricultural colleges like this one in North Wales can teach these
'young farmers the next generation of techniques and technologies.'
Now, I try and keep up to date, but there's always something new
you can learn, so I'm going to ask them to give me a bit of a lesson.
Hi, guys. Good to see you! Or should I say "bore da"?
'With forward-thinking projects
'like this study into overwintering cattle, I'm eager to discover more.
'Tomos Owen's going to explain.'
Very good! So, what's going on here, then?
The cattle are being outwintered on kale with a bit of silage,
and they're just moving to the next section.
-And what's the idea behind that?
-Cut costs over the winter.
Winter's the most expensive time of the year.
And there's costs like straw, sheds, scraping,
carrying the manure back to the fields, and just cutting all of it.
-And are these things important for you to learn, do you think?
It's different from the traditional and it's thinking of new
ideas and different ways to do stuff.
It's all about running a business, isn't it? Yeah.
-I'll go and join the girls, leave you to the bales.
'Kale makes a nutritious winter feed, but can be prone to pests,
'something sixth generation farmer Caitlin Jones knows all about.'
Is it difficult to grow?
Slugs can be a problem, but as long as you take the control
method to prevent them having a big effect, it's fine.
So, what do you want to do when you leave college?
Well, potentially, I'd like to go and study
a degree in agriculture and then go and train to be an agronomist.
So, studying crops.
-So, this is quite useful, learning about this here.
It helps knowing about obviously the different diseases, pests,
things that can influence the productivity of the crops.
Wow, you're not tempted to go back home then?
Well, I've got brothers home farming now,
but I think you don't necessarily have to go home to farm.
Agriculture is such a wide industry. I think there's a lot of jobs
that... There's nothing stopping me coming home later in life.
Right, let's get this fence wound up.
'Fellow student Cain Owen is also inspired by the college's
'innovative ideas.' Great, job done.
So, Cain, what other projects are going on at the college?
There's an exciting new project going on where we monitor ten cattle
from the inside with ten cattle from the outside, with pedometers.
-So, a pedometer is telling you how much they're walking about?
And what will you hope to see from that then?
We hope with information that the cattle from the outside be
much fitter and that will impact their ease of calving.
They'll walk much more outside here.
They walk to the water trough and to the silage and stuff,
compared to the ones that are inside, just walking about
and sitting. Inside is the traditional method.
Everyone uses it, but with a pedometer,
we can use the information to show that this is much better and
-healthier for the cattle.
-Great, new technology to give you new ideas.
-Can I take a look at the cattle inside?
-Yeah, come on then.
'The students are working with cutting edge facilities.
'Gethin Wyn and Ieuan Davies are showing me round.'
-Are you all right?
-It's a lovely shed, isn't it?
I've only ever seen one of these roundhouses before.
They're great, aren't they?
So, how does it work then? What's the advantage of it?
There's good ventilation, there's air coming through it all the time.
Yeah, it's a different kind of shed, compared with what we're used to.
There's amazing handling system, easily accessibly from every pen.
-So, you don't have to go in with them. It's a lot safer.
There's a good girl.
-Go on, then. In you go.
-What a brilliant system, isn't it?
-Aye, it is.
Is this the sort of thing you might get at home, do you think?
I'm not sure. It's a great facility. No contact.
And what are you going to do with your life when you live here?
-I've been chosen to go to New Zealand for work.
-What sort of farm?
Sheep and beef.
If you come home new ideas, do you think they'll take them on
board, or they'll say, no, we've always done it this way?
No, they're open-minded to what I have to say.
-And yeah, I think they would.
-Yeah, that's good, isn't it?
How about yourself?
Is there much you've learned here at college that you'll be able
-to take home, do you think?
-I think so, yeah.
Yeah, I think what the college gives us is it makes us think out
of the box, so we can see as it is at home and think, right,
we can improve on that and make an improvement and try to change
-the way we think about agriculture.
Well, it's great to hear young farmers like yourselves being
so passionate and open-minded about the industry.
It's good news. Shall we let this one out and get another one in?
Right. How do we do that?
When I was a youngster, I helped out on my dad's farm
learning all I could about day-to-day farming life.
But for fresh ideas and a wider perspective on agriculture,
formal education is hard to beat.
To me, the future of agriculture looks bright
but what do the students think?
Really, really lovely to meet you.
And, Caitlin, here you are with all your colleagues,
the future of British farming. Is it in safe hands?
Yeah. I think it definitely is. We learned so much in college,
it's going to set us up for the future
and there's so much technology coming out,
it's definitely going to help.
And there's just so many opportunities.
It's just up to the individual what they do with them
and if they take advantage of the opportunities.
Well, I think you're perfect people
to take our industry onwards and upwards.
Lovely to meet you all and good luck.
-All the best.
I think agriculture has got some very exciting
but challenging times ahead.
And it's the wonderful to meet such an enthusiastic bunch
of young people who are going to be joining our industry.
And that's why I'm launching
Countryfile's Young Farmer Of The Year Award.
It's part of the BBC's annual Food And Farming Awards
and the winner will be announced at a glittering ceremony in June.
I'd like to hear from you about young farmers you know
who are passionate about agriculture and the countryside
and who deserve recognition.
You can nominate any young farmer, aged under 25.
They could be a hard-working livestock farmer,
an agri-tech innovator,
have a special love of wildlife,
or be working to protect our countryside.
Nominations close at midnight on the 26th March.
Please don't e-mail or send postal nominations after that date
as they will not be considered.
Remember, if you're watching us on demand,
nominations may have already closed.
All the details are on our website,
along with full terms and conditions.
So, go on, get in touch.
I'd love to hear from you.
And, who knows, maybe a young farmer from your community
will take centre stage
as Countryfile Young Farmer Of The Year.
Farming thrives on innovation and enterprise
and that's just what young farmers can bring to the industry.
And few come more enterprising than a certain young beef farmer
that Matt caught up with in West Sussex last spring.
24-year-old Jack Stilwell from West Sussex
has been obsessed with cows since he was a boy.
But it wasn't until he was at agricultural College
that he realised he was going to need more than his summer job wages
to make it as a farmer.
So he turned to the internet to raise money through crowdfunding,
asking complete strangers to donate cash
to help make his dream come true.
And they did
to the tune of £4,000.
His initiative earned him a Young Farmer Of The Year Award.
-How are you doing, mate? Nice to see you.
-Good to see you.
-Are you all right?
-Yeah, very well, thank you.
It's quite a story this, isn't it?
How you got the money and how you got to be where you are today.
I really had no idea I was going to get it.
The amendment, kind of, gathered
and everything started to fall into place.
A few people have been a bit sceptical,
but you always get that with something new.
I think a lot of people have never heard of it.
It's new to the business world, let alone the farming world,
so the idea that somebody is asking for money can raise a few eyebrows.
But, once people actually understand it, and get to grips with it,
everyone's been on board. So it's been a journey, definitely.
Is it better than you thought it would be?
I mean, this is the world that you're in now.
-You must be just loving it.
-Yeah. I'm enjoying it very much.
I'm not embarrassed to say I'm a bit of a cow geek and I love my cattle.
What we're doing now, feeding them, that makes me happy.
It's one of my favourite things in the world.
It sounds pretty cheesy, a bit corny, but I'm all right with that.
In return for the donations,
Jack promised to keep people up to date with his progress
via social media.
Hello. Aren't you beautiful?
He used the £4,000 to buy
ten Hereford and ten Aberdeen Angus cattle.
And, just six months on, his herd is now nearly 250 strong,
spread over three sites across the South Downs,
some rented, some shared.
So, these are the first ones you bought, then. Yeah.
So, these heifers, here, are what I initially purchased
with the crowdfund money.
So, it's nice to see it's all coming, sort of, full circle.
So, these were all in calf to my Hereford bull here, old Curly.
-He is a beauty, isn't he?
-Yeah. I'm very happy with him.
So, this will be the first time, then, that you've actually calved?
Yeah. Up to now, I buy them in as calves
but I've never actually calved my own.
This will be another learning curve and the next new experience.
-Yeah. It's very good. I'm looking forward to it.
Though Jack works pretty much on his own,
he reaches thousands of people worldwide,
using the internet to post his photos of British farming.
So, we're going to take a snap and see how much interest we get
by the end of the day,
measured by the number of people who like the photo.
If you kneel down next to him.
Yeah, all right, then.
-It works? Right, now just do one of him and put him up.
Let's see how I get on.
Well, the last stop of the day
is on another bit of Jack's shared farmland.
It's with his breeding cows of the future
and it's been quite a big day for them
because, after a long winter indoors,
they're about two get their first taste of fresh green grass.
Well, even though Jack got into farming in a very modern way,
what he's doing is incredibly traditional and it's all about this.
Pasture land and grass.
Nearly, he's chosen breeds that can do well on grass
and don't need a huge amount of supplementary feed.
The problem he's got is that his fields are really quite spread out.
So, today, we're taking part of his herd over the Downs.
This is the fun bit. Here we go.
-Some of these have never seen grass, have they?
-Go on, girlies!
-Go on, go on!
Good, good, good, good!
There's the last one.
Look at them go!
That's a great sight, isn't it?
That's what it's all about indeed.
-Seeing them run across the grass like that, it's...
Yeah. It's a good sight to see.
So, really, going forward, then, what is the grand plan here?
The grand plan for me is just to continue to grow, get bigger.
All the time a good opportunity comes my way,
I'll grab it with both hands.
As long as I can keep it sustainable
and allow it to keep paying for itself,
I don't really see a limit to it, to be honest.
I'm just going to keep going.
Jack hopes his story will inspire others.
Just as he was inspired by the wise words of one of his sponsors.
He said that someone helped him when he was younger,
which allowed him to become successful
and the one caveat to that was that,
when I was successful, when I'd made it,
that I should help people do the same thing.
And I really like that sentiment.
Hopefully, it won't be too long before Jack can help out
some other young farmer
and, judging by Curly's fan club,
there's plenty of interest out there.
692 likes and counting.
Now, being a farmer, young or old,
means the weather is either your friend or foe.
So, let's find out what the forecast is for the week ahead.
I've been deep in Snowdonia's rugged landscape
looking back at farming then and now.
With the help of a recently unearthed BBC film from 1956.
Many of the challenges that this beautiful but harsh environment
throws at farmers haven't changed.
Farmers have always battled with the elements,
but it's not just us that suffers when the weather turns, of course,
our livestock can really take the brunt of it, too.
'Pip Jones, a PhD student from the University of Bangor,
'is researching the ramifications of our wild British weather...
'..on all types of sheep.
'She's brought along her woolly but slightly wooden helpers.'
You've got a life-size sheep in the middle of the field
and the rams are getting quite interested.
What on earth is going on?
Well, it's a really windy day and we've got our sheep here today
to see how cold the sheep are feeling in these conditions.
So, why are you doing that?
Well, our project is all about designing farms
with weather in mind.
So I suppose if a sheep gets too hot or too cold
that affects its productivity, does it?
There's all sorts of implications for getting too hot or too cold.
I mean, firstly, you're using energy to stay warm
which is going to reduce your productivity,
but there's all sorts of welfare implications as well,
and that's only worse for a lamb.
So what gizmos have you got inside this sheep
-to tell us what the temperature is?
-Inside the sheep we have...
..a whole array of heaters.
And what they are doing is keeping the sheep at 39 degrees Celsius,
which is the core body temperature of a sheep and a human.
What we can do is work out how much extra energy it takes
to keep that sheep at 39 degrees
according to the environmental conditions.
A day like today, where it's really windy as well as cold,
we've got a wind chill factor,
so she uses even more energy than she would do otherwise.
And can you not just do that with modern weather stations?
Well, modern weather stations will give us all of that information,
and in fact, on a weather forecast,
you will see the "feels like" temperature for a human,
but that is animal specific.
So what we're trying to do is work out
that "feels like" temperature for a sheep
to inform farmers as to how to plan their farms better
with that in mind.
Do you think people will listen to you? Do you think it will take off?
I think so. We've had all sorts of farmers interested.
I mean, lots of the things that we talk about they understand.
I mean, they've see how the sheep behave and interact
with the shelter on their farmland both in the summer when it's sunny
and in the winter when it's windy like today,
and it's not anything new.
In fact, it's quite old thinking, those kind of shelter systems,
but over the years many of them have been lost
and so what we're doing is providing up-to-date technology,
precision farming, but using some of these old ideas
and reinvigorating them
and seeing how, in fact, they increase the productivity
and efficiency of farmland.
-It's absolutely brilliant. It's a great idea, isn't it?
-She's a very understanding sheep.
-She's very obliging.
'Well, could a townsman make a living?
'If he could manage to buy a sheep farm
'and was to prepared to learn from the scientists
'as well as the farmers,
'he not only could, but I think he'd do very well.'
In the past 60 years farming has changed here.
From the introduction of modern machinery,
to the impact of global trade,
but the Snowdonia landscape,
that dominates farmers' lives here, remains eternal.
Looking back on Christopher Chataway's film
from the 1950s it's not just the farming that's changed,
so have television presenters.
'My choice would be sheep farming.
'You would have to be adaptable and progressive,
'and you would have to work about twice as long
'as you would in a town,
'but then with luck you might make a very good living,
'and you would have all this around you.'
To be honest, I really don't think he would have lasted five minutes.
I'm pleased I don't have to farm in this unforgiving landscape.
Well, that's all we've got time for.
Next week, we'll be exploring
Kent's Hoo Peninsular
where Matt really will be getting his hands dirty,
and Anita will be on the hunt for one of the most extraordinary birds.
Until then, goodbye.
I think it's time for cup of tea.
Countryfile is in Snowdonia where, with the help of some recently unearthed BBC archive, Adam Henson is discovering how farming has changed in the past 60 years. He also looks back through Countryfile's own archive to the times the programme has explored farming then and now. From when Matt Baker put a Little Grey Fergie tractor to the test to when Adam discovered a space-age underground farm in the heart of London.