Belfast Telegraph

Everyday tales of country folk as Northern Ireland families to star in hit TV farming show


Iain and Joyce McLean and their children John, Matthew and Ellie
Iain and Joyce McLean and their children John, Matthew and Ellie
Geoff and Lizzie Rodgers with their children Emma, Martin and Lucy
Geoff and Lizzie Rodgers
Matthew at work on the family farm
Lauren Harte

By Lauren Harte

Two local families are to feature in the latest instalment of a hit agricultural TV show that for the first time will showcase farmers from here.

The McLeans from Bushmills in Co Antrim and the Rodgers from Ballynahinch in Co Down will be appearing in This Farming Life, which is back on TV screens this week.

It follows the struggles and triumphs of a small number of farming families over the course of a year.

The Bafta-winning programme, now on its third series, has taken social media by storm since it first aired in 2016.

The first series was so popular that fans petitioned Westminster calling for more episodes. A few months later a second series was launched.

Up until now the farms featured have been in Scotland. Now the series is to include two farming families from here.

Producers say viewers will be treated to spectacular drone shots of the stunning Irish and Scottish landscapes, capturing the beautiful but at times harsh conditions throughout the different seasons.

Over the past year footage has been shot by the farmers themselves, showing the ups and downs of working life, during the challenging times of the Beast from the East and the lengthy summer drought.

The Rodgers family are Geoff (48) and Lizzie (43), married for 22 years, and their children Emma (21), Martin (19) and Lucy (14).

They run a 280-acre pedigree and commercial beef farm in the Mourne Mountains.

They look after a mixture of Limousin, Charolais, Blonde, Shorthorn and British Blue cattle.

Lizzie told the Belfast Telegraph: "As a family we are all very much involved in the farm and our children help out a lot, fitting it in around their school and university.

"The film crew were with us for around half-a-year filming the trials and tribulations of farming life.

"They followed us as we dealt with calving, getting ready for the Balmoral Show and trying to get the silage cut at the right time during the heatwave last summer.

"Tragically, during the filming we had 20 of our pedigree cattle slaughtered following an outbreak of bovine tuberculosis.

"It was a very emotional time, but we had some amazing moments too. The programme will show that life on a farm is certainly not straightforward but I hope viewers will appreciate our family story."

Also appearing are husband and wife of 25 years Iain (54) and Joyce (49) McLean.

Along with their children John (22), Matthew (20) and Ellie (18), they work on the 280-acre Priestland dairy farm on the north coast.

Iain's grandfather bought the farm back in 1911.

The family now breed top quality Holsteins and have an array of cups and rosettes to show for their achievements.

Iain, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 20 years ago, talks movingly about how the illness has in some ways motivated him to push through and continue building up the farm despite the struggles that come with his condition, and also working in the unpredictable dairy industry.

The 12-episode series will be screened in two blocks, to coincide with the winter and summer seasons.

The first six episodes will be shown from tomorrow night (Wednesday) for six consecutive weeks at 8pm on BBC2.

The next six episodes will then be aired for the public later in the year.

Belfast Telegraph


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