Episodes

SeriesTitleFirst
Broadcast
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01Bigger, Better?20170131

The story of average British farm size has been one of continuous growth - and farms are still getting bigger. In episode 7 of Against the Grain, Charlotte Smith visits Northamptonshire to meet Charles Matts, who tells a typical story of farming more land with fewer people and less machinery. So where will it end, and will that be better or worse? Plus ...a brief history of the hedge.
Producer: Chris Ledgard.

How did farms get so big? And will they get bigger?

Charlotte Smith presents a ten-part investigation into British agriculture.

01Change on the Way20170123

Brexit means Brexit. But what does it mean for British farmers? No other industry is so closely linked to Brussels as agriculture, which still gets nearly 40% of the EU's annual budget. In this ten part series, Charlotte Smith talks to farmers, politicians and policy experts. She explores the history of British farming, and the options for the UK after it has left the Common Agricultural Policy. In episode one, Charlotte joins the annual farming jamboree in London, the Farmers' Weekly Awards. The economist Dieter Helm lays out his vision for a post-CAP industry. And in Perthshire, cousins Martin and Roddy Kennedy explain the financial realities of hill farming.
Producer: Chris Ledgard.

Charlotte Smith joins the annual farming jamboree in London, the Farmers' Weekly Awards.

Charlotte Smith presents a ten-part investigation into British agriculture.

01Farming Westminster20170126

Charlotte Smith's investigation of modern British farming moves to Westminster, where she tackles the often tricky relationship between farmers and politicians. Former agriculture ministers Nick Brown and John Gummer look back on the late 1990s and early 2000s, a time when a series of farming crises made that relationship more fraught than ever. And, Charlotte asks, is this a particularly British problem? We hear from France and from Finland.

Producer: Chris Ledgard.

Can farmers and politicians ever agree? Charlotte Smith investigates.

Charlotte Smith presents a ten-part investigation into British agriculture.

01Food Security20170201

Britain last produced all its own food at the end of the eighteenth century. Since then, our levels of food security - growing what we eat ourselves - have risen and fallen depending on world markets, domestic politics, and war. Now, in an unstable world, many people in farming argue that food security should once again be a real concern. But is that just a marketing ploy? In episode 8 of Against the Grain, Charlotte Smith debates the issue with farmers' leaders and economists.

Producer: Chris Ledgard.

They are the words on every farmer's lips. But how important is it?

Charlotte Smith presents a ten-part investigation into British agriculture.

01Leaving Brussels20170203

After Brexit, what can farmers expect? Charlotte Smith concludes her investigation.

Charlotte Smith presents a ten-part investigation into British agriculture.

01National Farming20170124

Charlotte Smith visits Minette Batters, the deputy president of the National Farmers' Union, on her farm near Salisbury. Minette takes Charlotte to a water meadow which is flooding at the wrong time of year - but, she says there's nothing she can do. She has to comply with policy regulations. So when did the idea of national farming policy take hold, and where did it come from? These are questions Charlotte explores with the Professor of Landscape History from the University of East Anglia, Tom Williamson.
Producer: Chris Ledgard.

Charlotte Smith explores the relationship between policy makers and farming.

Charlotte Smith presents a ten-part investigation into British agriculture.

01Omnibus, part one20170224

Charlotte Smith presents the first half of her investigation into Britain's farming story, and discusses what the world might look like for farmers after Brexit. In part one of the omnibus edition, Charlotte tackles the relationship between politics and farming - at a personal level, with former Agriculture ministers Nick Brown and John Gummer, and at a policy level, in a discussion on the Common Agricultural Policy.

What has the CAP done for rural Britain? The Irish MEP Mairead McGuinness argues that it has held back the forces of large scale business and protected thousands of small farmers who preserve the character of the European countryside. True, says the respected commentator Professor Allan Buckwell, but that's a romantic idea and we need to ask how much longer we want to use public money to support unprofitable small farms.

We don our wellies with visits to farms in the Scottish hills, the arable East of England and an organic, mixed farm in Wiltshire. We're with farmers as they come to town for their annual jamboree, the Farmers' Weekly Awards in London. And the economist Dieter Helm lays out his vision for an industry in which farmers only get public money for providing public benefits.

Producer: Chris Ledgard.

Charlotte Smith explores the story of British farming and debates its post-Brexit future.

Charlotte Smith presents a ten-part investigation into British agriculture.

01Omnibus, part two20170303

Charlotte Smith presents the second part of her investigation into Britain's farming story, and discusses what the world might look like for farmers after Brexit.

On a wet Monday morning, Charlotte finds shelter in the cavernous indoor auction centre at Sedgemoor, where farmers sell sheep and swap stories. These large marts have replaced village and small town auctions - but they are still a vital social cog in an often lonely job. From Somerset, we head east to an arable farm, to discuss the ever increasing size of the British farm, and the dwindling number of farm workers.

Food security is an important debate in a politically uncertain world - Charlotte hears from farmers who argue that producing our own food should be an important post-Brexit consideration, and from economists who think they are overstating their case, and that the global market will take care of our food needs. And we end up in Brussels, where politicians and lobbyists in the agriculture sector are preparing for life without the UK, one of the major players in Europe's post war farming story.

Producer: Chris Ledgard.

Charlotte Smith explores the story of British farming and debates its post-Brexit future.

Charlotte Smith presents a ten-part investigation into British agriculture.

01Pigs20170127

The organic movement is over a hundred years old and it continues to divide farmers. And then there's the debate over whether specialized or mixed farming is best. In episode five of her series on modern British farming, Charlotte Smith explores these different farming systems. She visits Helen Browning, the chief executive of the Soil Association on her organic farm near Salisbury. And we hear the views of Charles Matts, a specialist arable farmer in Northamptonshire. Each believes they've got it right.

Producer: Chris Ledgard.

To have them or not to have them, that is the question.

Charlotte Smith presents a ten-part investigation into British agriculture.

01Public Money, Public Goods20170202

Should farmers be paid just for owning land? Charlotte Smith investigates.

Charlotte Smith presents a ten-part investigation into British agriculture.

01Sedgemoor Sale20170130

Charlotte Smith visits Sedgemoor Auction Centre in Somerset just by the M5 motorway, one of the regional marts which have replaced small town and village livestock markets. And this place is more important than ever as a social hub, she's told. Without it, one farmer says, he wouldn't see another farmer all week. At Sedgemoor, Charlotte hears typical tales of modern farming: the difficulties of making a living on rented land, farmers getting to grips with new scientific data, and farming electricity - is solar saving the small farmer?

Producer: Chris Ledgard.

Charlotte Smith takes the temperature of modern farming at Sedgemoor auction centre.

Charlotte Smith presents a ten-part investigation into British agriculture.

01The CAP Years20170125

Charlotte Smith's investigation into British farming takes her to Brussels, where she asks what the Common Agricultural Policy has done for British farming. The Irish MEP Mairead McGuinness argues that it has held back the forces of large scale business and protected thousands of small farmers who preserve the character of the European countryside. True, says the respected commentator Professor Allan Buckwell, but that's a romantic idea and we need to ask how much longer we want to use public money to support unprofitable small farms.

Producer: Chris Ledgard.

Where has the Common Agricultural Policy left British farming? And what happens next?

Charlotte Smith presents a ten-part investigation into British agriculture.