It reads a bit like a pub quiz question: can you name a University that has it's own shop and Facebook site, but no students, professors or lecture rooms? If you are one of the 5M or so who regularly tune into BBC Radio 4 for that soap you might instantly come up with the University of Felpersham. Last week we were in Scotland (and Andalucia), next week we shall visit the Rhine valley but for now we have moved south of the border into rural England. We're in Borsetshire, the fictitious home of Ambridge and the Archers, a farming family dating back to a 1950 pilot that spawned the longest running radio soap opera ever heard. Still going strong, but maybe (sob) on the move to Northumberland. Eastenders are babes in arms by comparison! The "everyday story of country folk" strapline has changed over the years, but the concept remains exactly the same, despite concerns that the new editor (who came from Eastenders) would "sex it up". The Archers delivers a daily dose of rural life to listeners who, for the most part, will have little idea of what farming is really like. A generation or two ago, most people grew up with reasonable knowledge of where food came from, but with increased farm size and decreased farm numbers, this is no longer the case. Witness my return from the allotment with recently dug potatoes, to be greeted by the quite genuine question, "what is that black stuff on those potatoes?" I am not an Archers listener, and I would get it seriously wrong if I tried to describe all the subtle nuances, but there are a couple of Dairycare-related stories that I can recount. Firstly, Pip Archer, agricultural student at the University and advocate of all things environmentally friendly, is keen to introduce robotic milking to the 200-cow Brookfield herd, and we are given a nice account of pros and cons via the Archers blog and David Harvey, their agricultural advisor. David is privately averse to big farms and specialisation, but acutely aware of the need for the programme to reflect reality (more so than my robotic image, totally false but I couldn't resist it!). Secondly, there is the one occasion on which The Archers got into deep water in relation to animal welfare. It is late 2010, and the Grundys (tenant farmers in Ambridge) were trying to catch the turkeys for the Christmas table. It was an undignified and amateurish attempt, and the programme was subsequently criticised by the RSPCA and others for not showing the birds enough respect. Odd that it should be a traditional back-yard enterprise that incurred wrath, rather than conditions on the new 1,500 head big-dairy farm. Rural England abounds with romantic villages with double-barrelled names: Penny Hassett, Carlton Curlieu, Midsomer Worthy, Loxley Barrett and Peatling Parva, to name but a few. Those who are on the ball will notice that I quietly slipped from radio to televison there, but whilst The Archers tries hard to be moderately credible, Midsomer Murders (Inspector Barnaby for our continental readers) thrives on presenting a totally impossible view of rural life. Were it to be believed, the depopulation of English farming villages occurred not through an exodus to big cities, but by homicide on an unprecedented scale! Thankfully, farming has featured only occasionally in Midsomer Plots, the recent escapades in the Midsomer Blue cheese factory not counting since this was after Midsomer John (Nettles) departed (especially fortunate since one of the deaths involved stampeding cows). Now, if you were really on the ball you would have noticed that only two of my villages were fictitious neighbours of Ambridge, the remaining two being perfectly innocent and genuine villages in Leicestershire, the "Heart of Rural England". My childhood was spent there, initially in the village of Stoney Stanton, where my father worked for his Uncle on the family farm, Cross Farm. As the name implies, this was at the Cross, in the very middle of the village, exactly where farms once were. Contrast this real working farm, photographed in 1982, with the romanticised Archers version (this one is Grange Farm). Cross Farm, like so many others, is now converted into up-market housing, but maybe we will hear more about it another time. Some years ago my aunt, hearing that Stanton was to be featured in a TV "tour of England" was intensely disappointed to hear it described as the archetypal dormitory village. Sad, but true. The exodus from farming and the land is not unique to the UK; here in Copenhagen most of my veterinary and animal science students have never set foot on a working farm when they first arrive. Is ignorance of farming a problem? I think so. It is not only turkeys that deserve respect, so do all of our farm animals and all of our food and its origins. Respect is hard to come by without knowledge, so, where is the knowledge to come from? The Archers does try to portray an accurate picture, but when you are seeking to entertain it is inevitable that you will focus on the extremes of the normal distribution, rather than the commonplace. Accuracy or otherwise is actually largely irrelevant, since the Archers is targeting the wrong audience (adults, lost cause!) As a very young child I was discouraged from watching The Woodentops (a childrens TV programme), since it's image of farm life was anything other than accurate (I think I might have spotted the difference!) Based on extremely limited evidence I would guess that the more recent Dappledown Farm was no better, but in any case, I am not convinced that TV is the best way of getting the next generation interested in farming. Kids love farms; Arla's pastoral image invites Danish families to try milk fresh from the robot on "farms open day". I would like to see much more serious effort made to get youngsters onto UK farms as part of their education in life. I make no pretence that this will be easy to do, but I do have a suggestion to make. The "Scout Method" is a program of informal self-education built around seven principles that include learning by doing and the importance of nature. Scouts and Guides place emphasis on practical outdoor activities, such as camping, woodcraft, aquatics, hiking, backpacking and sports. Come on Baden Powell-ites, what about adding farm visits and working with animals to the list?