Amanda Owen’s Farming Lives, review: a missed opportunity to celebrate female farmers

Being dubbed “the Kardashians of the countryside” proved a curse. Dales duo Clive and Amanda Owen shot to fame on Our Yorkshire Farm but their 22-year marriage became a casualty. Like a muddy-booted remix of the reality soap, the couple have gone their separate ways. 

The Yorkshire Shepherdess has begun her post-divorce screen career with Amanda Owen’s Farming Lives (More4). This six-part series finds the telegenic former model and and mother-of-nine roaming the UK to immerse herself in a range of farms, learning what makes them tick. 

Her first port of call was Shetland – the northernmost tip of the UK, closer to the Arctic Circle than London – where sisters Kirsty and Aimee Budge had taken over their family farm after the death of their father in a tractor accident. Their family has worked this land for 150 years, becoming almost self-sufficient. Against all expectations, these resilient young women were now leading the business into the future. Owen got stuck into daily farming life as she learned how the sisters made a living in such an isolated setting. Despite attempts to frame their story as inspirational and moving, the no-nonsense sisters were having none of it. When mother Helen grew emotional over lunch, Aimee told her: “That’s enough. Eat your cheese pie.” 

“Farmer visits other farms” isn’t the most compelling premise for a series. There were glimpses of a more interesting show here, focusing on female farmers. The sisters explained how women were traditionally at the forefront of crofting on Shetland. Owen herself ventured: “Women are better at handling livestock. Sorry but it’s true.” 

But, this theme wasn’t developed. Neither is Owen the most natural TV host. She exhibited shy body language, often averting her eyes from the camera. Mumbled narration added to her diffident screen presence, while those jangling bangles must have driven the sound department to distraction. An attempt to rope in her family by making a video call home was perfunctory. 

Defecting from Channel 5, where Our Yorkshire Farm blossomed into the broadcaster’s biggest factual hit, Owen’s solo debut is tucked away on More4. I couldn’t help wondering if this series had been stronger, it might have aired on terrestrial Channel 4. Instead it’s nice-but-dull with a disappointing daytime feel.