AS the saying goes: ‘Make hay while the sun shines’. Many of us will have been making the most of the recent fine weather, even if not literally making hay. 

For the first time in months we have been able to get on with jobs outside, whether it’s gardening, house maintenance or just enjoying the warmth of the sun again.

But farmers really are making hay while the sun is shining and trying to catch up on a whole host of other jobs. For them this really is a make or break moment after one of the wettest years in memory. 

One of my oldest friends is a farmer. His mum was my mum’s best friend, so we have known each other all our lives. He took over the farm from his father and it’s the only lifestyle and career he’s ever known. 

When I saw him at Easter he told me how much of a battle the last year had been. The relentless rain has left the fields waterlogged. Any crops they had managed to plant were not doing well. 

Meanwhile the weather had put everything else well behind schedule and as a result some yields will be well down. 

Farmers with livestock have had to keep them undercover for longer which is more costly. All this while the farming industry struggles to come to terms with yet more changes to rules and regulations. 

As a result of Brexit farming is transitioning away from the old EU subsidies to a UK based financial support scheme. As with all these things it’s a slow and complicated process and has increased uncertainty. 

It is little wonder farmers are even more worried than usual at the moment. In fact a recent survey by the National Farmers’ Union shows that short and mid-term confidence in the future is the lowest since records began.

It’s a situation that has an impact on all of us. We might not know any farmers personally, or live anywhere near the countryside, but we all need food and we all know how much that is costing every week. 

A lot of these problems are not new. I spent a great deal of my time as a broadcaster reporting on the plight of farmers in the South West. 

From BSE to TB, from bad weather to red tape, farming has had many ups and downs. One of the most distressing periods of my career was during the outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease.

I was hosting a daily phone-in programme on BBC Radio Devon and it became a lifeline to the outside world for the farming families who were locked down and whose livelihoods were literally going up in smoke as their animals were destroyed and placed on huge funeral pyres. 

But, despite our reliance on farmers to provide so much of what we eat, it’s amazing how disconnected most of us are from the world of farming. 

There is currently one programme on television that is doing a great job in showing the wider public what life as a farmer can be like. It’s called ‘Clarkson’s Farm’.

It is streamed on Amazon Prime and follows the fortunes of the TV presenter Jeremy Clarkson as he tries to run his own farm in the Cotswolds. 

I have just finished watching the first four episodes of the latest series and it has been an emotional rollercoaster. There have been tears of sadness and tears of laughter. It is both heart breaking and heart warming.

Jeremy Clarkson is a divisive figure. His outspoken views often offend and he doesn’t suffer fools gladly, something I know to my cost. 

On Millennium Eve I was reporting live from the Isles of Scilly as the sun set on 1999. I then handed over to Jeremy Clarkson who was in a plane chasing the sun out across the Atlantic. 

Foolishly I suggested he was several miles above us when I meant several feet. Instead of ignoring my mistake, Jeremy Clarkson pointed out to the worldwide TV audience that he’d be in space if he’d been several miles above me. Thanks Jeremy! 

I’ve forgiven him though and his appearances on ‘Clarkson’s Farm’ have shown he also has a compassionate side. He seems to genuinely care for the great cast of characters that work alongside him and he cares about the animals he’s trying to rear. 

He also shows that farming is brutal, unforgiving and non-stop as we see him and his partner out in the middle of the night in freezing weather trying to keep new born pigs alive. 

The programme brilliantly highlights the endless rules, regulations and form filling that farmers face and the hoops they have to go through to get anything done.

It also shows that despite all that hard work, you could still end up making no money whatsoever through no fault of your own, either because the weather has been too dry or too wet.

In one episode Jeremy is told how much he will get for his crops. As he points out there are very few businesses where the customer tells you the price you will receive for your produce. You try going into Tesco and telling them how much you have decided to pay them for your shopping! 

There are elements of ‘Clarkson’s Farm’ that leave me slightly uncomfortable though. He is independently wealthy as a result of his TV work and can therefore afford to buy the latest equipment, throw lots of money at every problem that arises and indulge in experiments that might fail. 

I suspect most farmers don’t have that luxury! They probably haven’t even had time to watch Jeremy Clarkson’s antics judging by the frantic work going on in the fields near me at the moment. 

The farmers in my area are making hay, and everything else we need, while the sun is shining. I wake up at dawn to the sound of tractors rattling along the road and go to bed at night hearing them still out in the fields. 

Let’s hope for their sake and for all of us, that they can catch up and reap a good harvest. 

Bye for now!