Before I start, I’d like to say that I recognize that the potential for twisting the truth in journalism is, whilst not massively honourable, prevalent, and I’d like to give Mr Henson the chance to perhaps develop on the comments he is said to have made in The Daily Telegraph which you can find here.
My main issue with what Mr Henson is quoted as saying is mainly that he believes ‘farmers are very good at being the over-worked, underpaid whingeing farmer’. I’m not sure who Mr Henson is meeting whilst presenting Countryfile and managing his Cotswold Farm Park, but I would strongly suggest they are not representative of the wider farming community.
‘When I wake up in the morning, I genuinely want to go to work’. How patronising. At risk of sounding ‘whingey’ (god forbid), farmers are hardly in the industry for monetary gain. There is simply no way that farmers would continue to work how they do, the hours they do, through the struggles they do, for their love of money. So why would they bother? Every single farmer I have met gets up, whether that be at 4am, 5am or onwards, and works exceptionally hard. Because they love their work. Perhaps unbelievably, farmers other than Mr Henson wake up and ‘genuinely want to go to work’. Otherwise we’d have a fairly unproductive agricultural workforce.
My next issue of contention is the suggestion that young people are being put off the industry because those older and wiser than us don’t feed us some glorified reality of how fantastic farming is. Please do not insult us by suggesting that we can’t handle the reality of farming. Quite honestly, if young people are encouraged to go into the industry thinking they are going to be well paid and live their lives in luxury, there’d be as many leaving the industry within 5 years as there was entering it. The absolute wonder of young farmers is our determination to succeed in an industry that has never promised us anything other than what we can see. All aspects of farming promote facing reality. You see life, and death, and hardship and struggle, but you also see success and the beauty of nature and get to spend your time doing something you are passionate about. If young people are put off entering the industry because a farmer has complained that his milk price has dropped below the cost of production, then maybe that is for the best. The agricultural industry does not suit those that are not willing to work for something other than a wage packet.
Saying that farmers should celebrate their lives and the ‘incredible environment we work in’ illustrates to me that Mr Henson appears to be a bit out of touch, and is also hugely insulting to the vast majority of farmers that are proud and hugely appreciative of their jobs and lifestyles. My Twitter timeline is constantly full of farmers sharing their thoughts, stories and photos. (Examples below…)
Farmers are the most appreciative people I know, because they know of the reality that the good times can just as quickly turn into bad. Yes, agriculture is a fantastic industry with many positive aspects, but it is also tough and unforgiving. So forgive us if we want to have a little whinge that our herd of cows has gone down with TB, or we’ve lost 20 lambs to a dog attack, or an unseasonably dry Spring has stunted our crop, and forgot to look at the beautiful view for 5 minutes.
I always believed that Mr Henson was supposed to be a ‘representative’ of agriculture, a real life farmer working hard to feed the nation with a platform from which to promote the reality of farming. I’m not sure how his condemnation of ‘whingy’ farmers, and suggestion that we should be promoting the ideal industry to encourage young people to enter it benefits us in any way. It’s almost embarrassing that someone with his level of influence has chosen to turn against the people he is supposed to be supporting and promoting.
Well, thank you Mr Henson, but I think the industry could do without you sharing your opinion of our shortcomings. I, as a young new entrant to the industry, would rather I knew the reality of what I was getting into, and was prepared for what was to come, than fed some idealistic version of what, at times, can be a very un-ideal industry.