28 Aug 2012

Wartime Farm - how the war changed agriculture

Image: Photographer Laura Rawlinson, ©Lion TV/BBC

Image: Photographer Laura Rawlinson, ©Lion TV/BBC

TX Thursday 6 September, 8:00pm on BBC TWO

Wartime Farm, a new Open University/BBC co-production produced by Lion Television, tells the story of British agriculture during the Second World War, focusing specifically on food production and rations. Before the start of the war, Britain relied heavily on foreign food, but by the end, the situation had been transformed. Today farming in Britain is still shaped by its wartime past.

Historian Ruth Goodman and archaeologists Alex Langlands and Peter Ginn used 1940s tools and techniques to run Manor Farm in Hampshire exactly as it would have been during the Second World War. The eight part series will see them make the most of food and fuel rations to achieve tough wartime farming targets. They will manage livestock, attempt cultivation of unused land and use new tools and technologies amidst the constraints of shortages.

Dr Chris Williams, Lecturer in History at The Open University and Academic Consultant for the series, said: “The war changed agriculture – before, there was a free market, then the government intervened to maximise food production. The Ministry of Food gave everyone a ration book, and then had to make sure that there was enough for everyone. Food imports continued in the war, but they were mainly of low volume items like meat: ships were too precious to be spared for grain, so British farmers were ordered to plough up millions more acres to sow crops. The aim was to use more machines to produce at all costs – and this tendency carried on in peacetime."

Although the population didn’t go hungry, there were many complaints about the dreariness of the rationing system. It was not a ‘one size fits all’ solution; there was more food available in the countryside compared to towns, and people who had time to queue for unrationed food (including bread, potatoes and coffee) ate better than those who were at work.

The series also shows how people in the countryside met the challenges of war: from setting up decoy targets to attract German bombs away from cities, to housing evacuees, hosting 'holidays at home', and drawing on old skills which were needed to 'make-do-and-mend'.

To continue the learning journey with The Open University, visit www.open.edu/openlearn/wartimefarm (link right)

Editor’s Notes
Wartime Farm was produced in partnership with The Open University.
Executive Producers for the BBC are Emma Willis and James Hayes, Executive Producer for Lion Television is David Upshal. The Academic Consultants for The Open University are Dr Chris Williams and Dr Becky Taylor.

The series was filmed at Manor Farm Country Park - owned and run by Hampshire County Council.

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