Farming Today This Week: Farming Today at 80
On a Wednesday evening in 1937 a series of autumn radio talks began on the BBC under the title 'Farming Today'. 80 years later the programme's name is known by millions and it is firmly established as a mainstay of early morning broadcasting. Although the sound and style of the modern 'Farming Today' would be unrecognisable to the first speaker at the microphone all those years ago; the Cambridge academic and popular agricultural broadcaster, William Mansfield.
Unlike many of the BBC's longest-running radio productions, the story of 'Farming Today' is unpredictable and unconventional. It didn't start with a bang but instead it was born out of another, already well-established programme called, unappealingly, 'For Farmers Only'. Over the decades the format and time slot have changed; the programme has moved from network to network; it disappeared from the airwaves completely in the 1950s and several times over the last 80 years it has come perilously close to being axed. Yet for many listeners it is as much a part of the Radio 4 schedule as the chimes of Big Ben and the Shipping Forecast.
The BBC's official historian, Professor Jean Seaton, is drawn to the "muddiness and breakfastness" of 'Farming Today', former Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher and Gordon Brown tuned in and it's true that many of the keenest listeners have no connection with the countryside at all.
Presented by Charlotte Smith.
Produced by Vernon Harwood.
Readers: Juliet Browne and Alan Morgan.