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Backbone of Britain: Lockdown life in pictures on family farm – ‘It became clear the day-to-day routine was just as it had been before any sign of Covid-19’


Whether Covid-19 has brought about change or meant business as usual, the farming calendar is ticking over as it always has. Here, photojournalism student Jack Bailey tells his family’s story. Hannah Park reports

Subject of Jack's project, Stephen Bailey

Subject of Jack’s project, Stephen Bailey


Every individual could tell their own story on how Covid-19 is impacting them, their family or business.

Milk price fluctuations, complications when it comes to trading livestock and absence of ordinarily crucial overseas labour are among ongoing collateral from the global pandemic which is continuing to grip the world.

Amid all of this though is a daily grind that remains largely unchanged for many farmers.

In the midst of lockdown on his family’s mixed livestock farm at Biddulph, Staffordshire, photojournalism student Jack Bailey decided to encapsulate what this looked like for his final year dissertation project aptly titled ‘Farming in lockdown.’

Jack says: “My original thoughts for the project were to document the survival of a small family farm during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“But as I gathered material, it became clear the work, long hours and day-to-day routine was just as it had been before any sign of Covid-19.

Below: “My aim here was to show the perseverance of sticking with older models as the farmer sees fit to invest in other areas of the farm deemed more important. This tractor was bought almost a decade ago and has been used intensively – it seems to be at the end of its lifecycle now despite the tinkering.”

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Above: “Here I wanted to document what often happens when something like a tractor breaks down and a quick fix is needed. Especially in moments like these when certain services are not available, cost-effective methods have to be taken into account using resources available.”

Instead, I became entranced with the sentimentality of what my life had been like growing up in these environments and I wanted to put that across.

“I wanted to capture the long hours, unpredictability of the working conditions and constant problems occurring which can leave the farmer wondering where to start.

“I also wanted to put across the ethos of the family farm, the local, rural communities they belong to, and what may even be seen as an archaic way of farming, when compared to larger scale commercial farms.”

The photo series features Jack’s father, Stephen Bailey, documenting him in his everyday surroundings doing daily tasks.

Jack adds: “While people’s acknowledgment of where their food comes from may have risen in recent weeks, the nation’s reliance on farmers is something I have more often than not found to be under-appreciated by those who have never experienced what life on a family farm is like.

“I wanted to give viewers with little or no farming knowledge a glimpse into this life, the farming community and some of the things that go with that, which were seemingly normal for me, growing up among generations of farmers in my own family.

“As I gathered material, it became clear the work, long hours and day-to-day routine was just as it had been before any sign of Covid-19”

Jack Bailey

“Agriculture is one of the most important industries in the world, providing the world with a constant supply of food which is becoming even more important during this unusual period.” Uncertainties too, when it comes to future payment structures, trade and legislation also mean there is a continual question mark hanging over the farm’s future.

Jack says: “Despite the perseverance and tireless effort which goes into maintaining the holding, the future of the farm is always uncertain, especially with the looming impact of the Brexit vote.

But this integral way of life is long set to continue.”

“I felt this was a good one to end on as it leaves the viewer with a firm message in their mind.

During this global pandemic, buying British meat has never been more important.”

Below: “I think this highlights the individuality of family-run farms. The farmer makes sure to spill a bit of milk on the floor everyday alongside feeding them.”

Above: “From a technical perspective this style of photo is one I love to see, as it allows the viewer to see the subject but also allows me to focus on the detail I needed to portray, in this case looking at current market prices. It is showing an ordinary activity most can relate to.

Proud to Farm


Unapologetically proud of the industry, and focusing on the people who make agriculture tick, Farming: The Backbone of Britain is a feel-good editorial campaign to shine a light on farming communities.


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