‘THIS FARMING Life’ is returning to our screens for a fifth series, promising once again to give viewers an intimate insight into the highs and lows of six farming families as they navigate the challenges of a global pandemic and the post-Brexit farming era.

Viewers can look forward to reconnecting with some old faces from the last series as well as meeting a host of new families from the north of the country in Orkney, to the south in Stranraer.

As ever, the series promises to showcase the abundance of stunning scenery Scotland has to offer and capture the realities of rural living in some of the most remote parts of the country.

Read more: BBC's This Farming Life is back for a fifth series

The 12-part series will be streamed in two parts, with the first six episodes airing in the coming weeks. It will first be shown on BBC Scotland on Tuesday, November 23, at 8pm, with two episodes every week for three weeks and then again on BBC2 on Tuesday, December 21, at 7pm, with three episodes every week, for two weeks over the Christmas period.

Meet the families

Emma Gray and Ewan Irvine, Ardros Farm, Isle of Bute

Returning to our screens are Emma Gray and Ewan Irvine who have begun a new and exciting farming venture on the Isle of Bute. It is a make-or-break year for the young couple who have taken on a 20-year tenancy for a farm seven times the size of their 100 acres farm in Northumberland. The series follows them as they get to grips with island living, increasing livestock numbers and trialling new ventures.

The SF spoke with the This Farming Life executive producer, Jo Roe, who gave a little more info on what viewers can expect from their journey.

“In the first episode we film Emma and Ewan arriving in Bute and totally unplanned, the local community come out in force to help them unload and settle in. It is a really lovely scene for Emma and Ewan who are bowled over by the sense of community.

“We pick up filming with them in April just as lambing and calving is about to kick off and they are doing it all on their own as well as juggling looking after their two-year-old son. Quite early on they do bed and breakfast for cattle but realise they aren’t making a profit and go on to explore a few different enterprises.”

The Frasers and Girvans, Farm Ness and Corrimony Farm, Loch Ness

Two new farming families the Frasers and Girvans join this year’s series – both have traditional hill farms outside Inverness.

Donald Fraser and David Girvan are cousins who both farm in close proximity on the banks of Loch Ness and both their partners are full of fresh ideas to diversify their farms and bring in extra revenue.

David Girvan’s passion are his Stabiliser cattle – a composite breed of red and black Angus, Gelbvieh and Simmental, cross-bred to produce, what supporters call, the perfect suckler cow – and his 900 ewes. David’s wife, Barbara, prepares for the biggest pumpkin event Loch Ness has ever seen and plans to launch a pick your own wildflower business from the farm.

Cousin Donald Fraser works alongside his dad, Donald snr, on their traditional hill farm and Donald’s partner, Joanna, gets stuck in to the farm properly for the first time this year as viewers follow her journey of firsts.

“Joanna moved in with Donald and had two kids early on and has only now had the time to fully settle in to farming life and we see her gets to grips with gathering and lambing and she is very open about the massive learning curve she is on,” continued Ms Roe.

“She recognises that there is huge potential to capitalise on the farms location being close to a main tourist route and decides to open a farm shop and we come into that journey just as the plans are falling in to place. We follow them as they put in beehives to sell local honey, attempt to rear beef for the shop and sell wool from their sheep.”

The Love family, Bridge of Aird, Stranraer

The fourth family to join the series are the Loves, from Stranraer. Dairy farmers Andy and Christine, look after 130 pedigree Holstein dairy cows supplying a local creamery.

The camera crews follow Andy preparing to hand over the reins of the business to daughter, Kayleigh, who has big plans for the farm, alongside husband Rab, to sell milk direct to locals. Rab is diagnosed with bowel cancer eight months before filming started and the series delves into the impact illness can have on family life.

“We join the Love family at a point in time where Kayleigh has decided to build her own pasteurising unit and is also looking at getting a milk vending machine installed. Instead of super-sizing the business she explores how she can get more of a margin on the milk they sell and turns her focus to local customers," said Ms Roe.

“Rab is diagnosed with bowel cancer before filming begins and they bravely share this story during the series which will be really resonant for viewers but particularly farmers.”

The Cursiter family, Laga, Orkney

Orcadian farmers, the Cursiters, join the series with the focus falling on 32-year-old Sean, recently crowned 'Britain's fittest farmer'.

His dad, Michael and his uncle, Martin, co-own the family farm, Laga, on the west of Orkney, and as neither plan to retire any time soon, Sean is currently waiting his turn. Across the year, he strives to forge his own path, working with a starter flock of New Zealand Romneys, embarking on a shearing road trip and taking on contracting work with fellow young farmers on Orkney.

“It’s a classic farming story - a young farmer now in his thirties and looking to settle down and have a family, but he’s a long way off owning his own farm,” explained Ms Roe. “The farm sustains Michael and Martin’s families, but it would be hard to sustain another family on top of that. So Sean, who is full of energy and big ideas, is in a tough predicament. He wants to keep Laga Farm in the family, but he also wants to run his own farm. Sean is also one of the top shearers in the UK and we follow him on the shearing circuit – where he earns in two months the equivalent of the annual farm earnings.”

The Black family, Collessie, Fife

The final team to join the new series is the Black family, which consists of Ronnie Black (73) and his sons Pete and Mike, who run a mixed farm in the East Neuk of Fife.

Most of their land is arable, supplying their animal feed business – but their passion is pedigree sheep and Clydesdales.

For the first time on This Farming Life, Clydesdales make their debut and Ronnie has dedicated his life to preserving the legacy of his father’s Clydesdales. Through the series, the cameras will follow the dedication and time involved in their upkeep, as well as the impact Brexit had on the sheep market.

“In the first episode with the Black Family which is in episode three, we managed to capture one of the mares giving birth, which is a beautiful sequence,” said Ms Roe. “The Clydesdales are prominent in the first half of the series. In the second half, to be transmitted next year, we follow the fortunes of Mike’s pedigree Suffolk sheep and explore the feed side of their business.”.”

Filming took place between April, 2021, and is ongoing until the end of this year. The SF heard from Jo Roe how the process unfolded.

“We have two amazing two-person teams who have been out filming with each farm every other week or so for the past eight months,” she said. “We have strict covid safety protocols, though most of our filming is outside which means social distancing isn’t too much of a problem for us.

“We decided to only feature Scottish families this series as we wanted to create as much of sense of place as possible,” she continued. “All five locations feel distinct, but you get a sense of ‘wow all of this is in Scotland’, from the lowlands of Stranraer to the rolling hills of Fife and the archipelago of Orkney.

“This series we followed a lot of stories of farmers trying their hand at something new and dug a little deeper into the human stories behind the families and the issues they face. A real take home message from the series is the sense of support for the industry which came as a result of the pandemic."

TFL5 - Where to watch

BBC Scotland

Episode 1 - Tuesday, November 23, 8pm

Episode 2 - Wednesday, November 24, 8pm

Episode 3 – Tuesday, November 30, 8pm

Episode 4 – Wednesday, December 1, 8pm

Episode 5 – Tuesday, December 7, 8pm

Episode 6 – Wednesday, December 8, 8pm

BBC Two

Episode 1 – Tuesday, December 21, 7pm

Episode 2 – Wednesday, December 22, 7pm

Episode 3 – Thursday, December 23, 7pm

Episode 4 – Tuesday, December 28, 7pm

Episode 5 – Wednesday, December 29, 7pm

Episode 6 – Thursday, December 30, 7pm

Read more: BBC's This Farming Life is back for a fifth series