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The new agricultural story advisor

Friday 20 May 2011, 15:44

Steve Peacock Steve Peacock Archers agricultural advisor

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Steve Peacock

Sharp-eared listeners may have noticed a new name mentioned in the credits for The Archers. Our long-serving agricultural guru, Graham Harvey, has returned to the writing team and handed over the ceremonial thumb stick* to Steve Peacock, former editor of BBC Radio 4's Farming Today. We asked Steve to introduce himself.

(*wholly metaphorical)

Among my claims to fame are that I have slept with Noddy Holder (and Dave, Jim and Don, it was quite a night). John Humphrys once threatened to do violence to my portable telephone. And the late Captain Beefheart berated me for eating an egg mayonnaise salad on the grounds that it would poison me. You should have seen the look the waiter gave him.

None of this has ever cut much ice with my family, but now I'm a regular visitor to Ambridge they are very proud. So am I. I can now add to my CTF list that I have been welcomed to Ambridge by Brian Aldridge and that I have witnessed an intimate moment between Jolene and Kenton.

My lips are sealed. And frankly that's going to be one of the hardest things about this job. I've been a journalist since I left school, so my instinct is to blab stories, not sit on them. Now I know things that are going to happen in Ambridge weeks, if not months, from now and I have been told very firmly that Our Listeners Do Not Like Leaks.

The other thing I am having to learn fast is how a radio drama works. I know from my years editing Farming Today that agriculture and rural life are full of really interesting stories. It can be as simple as people believing passionately in a way of life or a rural pursuit that most of us have no idea about. There's science and technology all along the food chain that leaves me open-mouthed.

And even the big issues can provide the raw material for emotionally-charged human stories. Over the past decade or so, farmers have had to change and adapt to a system in which food production is subsidised less and less. I have found it fascinating that some - large and small - have reinvented their businesses and thrive while many still struggle to cope. There is drama in success and failure - and in the process.

In Ambridge, three out of the four main farms milk cows for a living. That is a notoriously difficult business for many farmers and it would be surprising if it didn't get more difficult, in the short term at least. I do not think it would be breaking any confidences to say that David, Tony and Ed will have to think hard about what they are doing. For someone interested in agriculture it is great that The Archers brings issues like that to life. For someone interested in The Archers it is the agriculture that makes it unique as a drama serial. Real stories about farming give the characters and their life stories a sense of being grounded, not just having a location.

So far I'm having fun. Just don't ask me what happens next!

PS - about Noddy and the lads. I was writing about Slade for Sounds magazine early in my career, so I went on tour with them. Normally you'd get put up in an hotel but their management was, er, famously careful with money so I found myself sharing a kind of dormitory with the band.

Steve Peacock is the The Archers' agricultural story advisor.

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    Comment number 1.

    One of the main reasons I enjoy the Archers so much is the authenticity of the farming story lines and of the actors who portray them (with, alas, the exception of Adam who comes across as a moody thespian rather than a sturdy agrarian). I grew up in rural Devon, surrounded by livestock farming, and am shocked at how little attention is paid in our society to the farmers who feed us and take care of our landscape. If it weren't for the excellent job done by the Archers' agricultural story editor in publicising current issues, I might have to cry 'Bring back the rotten boroughs'!

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    Comment number 2.

    And please, can you, as Ag Ed, remind the prod team, Our Listeners Like Leeks?

    More Beryl at Bridge Farm, the Lazy Weeder, and Tony's polytunnels - plus Debbie Doing Her Thing for the Arable Farming!

    Looking forward to getting back to Midlands farming with you in charge! Welcome!

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    Comment number 3.

    Yes, please please can we have more stories about farming and what farmers do, and less about unlikely roof falls, over-dramatic sibling arguments etc. That would be great. Hope you are enjoying the new job too.

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    Comment number 4.

    I think I must be addicted to the Archers or something because I have listened (sad) for about 30 years and now it drives me bonkers but like scratching an itch I seem unable to stop.
    They all have sheep, the price of sheep - both breeding, fat and cull stock has gone through the roof - no mention. Commodities prices, wheat, barley, rape have been all over the place, no mention. The amount of oilseed rape grown in this country has trebled (at least I think) in the last few years, as those with asthma/hay fever will tell you - no mention not even by Linda. There has been a terrible shortage of rain over a huge amount of the country with a real impact on the majority of farms, extraction licences in some parts of the country have been revoked so farmers cannot irrigate, potatoes won't happen in that case.... no mention. 2012 is up and coming the end of the current CAP agreement in 2013 - what will happen to direct payments to farmers, will they be to only active farmers or to Landowners. Hopefully someone near Ambridge will read the farmers guardian or some such publication and explain the future of farming in Europe so that those of us who don't understand will be better educated! I may have got over my addiction by then... I'm sure your more urban listeners would actually like to know this stuff and be genuinely interested.

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    Comment number 5.

    On occasions we have an insert for momentous political events to make the Archers more realistic, and that's fine.
    What we don't seem to have are inserts on up to date weather conditions to make the agricultural storylines more realistic. Weather is of paramount importance to farmers, so can consideration be given to creating inserts to reflect weather conditions like drought (now) and frost (last winter). This would avoid those jarring moments when characters mention the weather which only Borsetshire seems to enjoy in a bubble far removed from the rest of the country?

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    Comment number 6.

    >What we don't seem to have are inserts on up to date weather conditions to make the agricultural storylines more realistic.

    Topical inserts are quite expensive to do, but we do them for extreme weather conditions very occasionally.

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    Comment number 7.

    To Mild at Heart oh do join twitter, Archers is brilliant on there. Join and search #thearchers. Hope to see you there, I am @PenrithG_GM

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    I agree with Jane (commment no 4). Let's have more topical and important agricultural story lines. Some episodes recently have been dire. Please don't wander too far from the main reason for the Archers which is to inform and entertain country folk.


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