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North coast farmer saddles up for This Farming Life

By Jean Gunn

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Joyce with new lockdown purchase, Lulu, and husband Ian
Joyce with new lockdown purchase, Lulu, and husband Ian

North coast hill farmer Joyce Campbell's special lockdown purchase is unveiled to the world in This Farming Life on Wednesday evening.

In the final episode of the current series of the BBC2 programme Joyce can be seen out enjoying some well-earned time off from work with her new Highland pony, Lulu.

Explaining that she had missed getting out on horseback since her other stead had gotten older, she said: "Having Lulu is giving me some down time. I am enjoying riding her, she has been great."

Instead of going quickly round the ewes on her quad bike, when she has time Joyce saddles up the horse which she says is worth it even if she does end up having to go back for the dogs.

During the first lockdown Joyce explained that they didn't do any filming with the production crew until the restrictions started to ease.

Encouraging other local farmers to take part in the next series of This Farming Life, Joyce said: "They absolutely should make contact with the BBC and do a test pilot. I would recommend it – I found it a really positive experience.

"It is a good way to tell our story. There is big pressure on farming with carbon emissions and a real drive for less meat consumption. The ethical production of meat is very important."

Joyce with a couple of her sheepdogs.
Joyce with a couple of her sheepdogs.

She is keen for farmers to show the public that they are mindful of welfare standards and health plans. Joyce pointed out that those interested in taking part needed to be clear with their message and keep it simple so younger viewers can also understand it.

"The production team were lovely folk, they had been on lots of farms over the years," she said. "They always gave you warning when they were coming."

Joyce was able to make contact with some of the other farming families taking part in the present series through social media, including Emma Gray, the shepherdess from Northumberland, and Dani and Matt Blair in the Lake District. She has also met Isla French from Aberdeenshire, who along with her husband George rears some interesting breeds, including red deer and ostriches.

Following one of the earlier episodes Joyce received numerous messages from viewers after she was seen using a Gambrel sheep restrainer while working with one of her ewes.

The sheep restrainer, along with the hoody Joyce was given by Horner Shearing.
The sheep restrainer, along with the hoody Joyce was given by Horner Shearing.

"I caught a ewe and was using this restrainer I carry around on the bike," she said. "I was inundated with folk getting in touch with me online." The result was that various outlets sold out of the gadget and Joyce found herself the recipient of a new signature hooded sweatshirt courtesy of Horner Shearing – one of the suppliers selling all the restrainers on their website.

Commenting on some of the other mail she has received since the series was aired, Joyce said: "A vegan sent me £20 and apologised for not eating meat – I gave it to the Armadale Hall fund."

An American lady also got in touch with her after watching the programme on BritBox. "We have received requests for semen from some of our tups from overseas," she added.

In the 12th episode Joyce, who is used to working her 6,000 acre hill farm at Armadale on her own, is joined by her niece and nephew, twins Frances and Mure who came home from university due to the coronavirus and spent a few months helping on the farm full time.

Working together, viewers will see them move a herd of Saler cross cows two miles along the North Coast 500. The final episode can be viewed on BBC2 on Wednesday at 8pm.

Related article: BBC in hunt for new Highland family for This Farming Life after success of Joyce Campbell at Armadale Farm in Sutherland

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