The store’s decision to introduce ‘Farmer Christmas’ to the nation is nothing short of inspirational. Making him a hero of the festive season, working all year round like the original Father Christmas, is very clever. Not only is the advert a much-deserved pat on the back for the farming community, it serves as a reminder to the general public that food doesn’t just arrive all wonderfully packaged.
There can be no doubt that the late Sir Ken Morrison, who became in many ways as much a farmer as he was a supermarket boss, would approve. In his later life Sir Ken became a keen farmer and ran a flock of Texel cross sheep and 1,000 head of beef cattle at his home in Myton-on-Swale, North Yorkshire. He was a great supporter of the Yorkshire Agricultural Society and its flagship event the Great Yorkshire Show.
At the time of his death, Sir Ken’s farm manager Richard Pennock paid tribute to the retail titan’s “passion for agriculture”. He told the farming press: “He was here every day looking round the cattle and walking through the lambing shed at lambing time – talking to everyone and keeping up to date with what was happening on the farm.”
The 60-second seasonal television advert tells a tale about Farmer Christmas, working all year round in order to produce food for festive tables across the country. It follows two young friends as they explore North Pole Farm, where the seasonal food is grown, before spotting Farmer Christmas’s version of a sleigh and the ‘reindeers’ he needs to transport everything.
They then sneak a look into his workshops where his team of magic helpers – including butchers, bakers and fishmongers – are helping to prepare produce. At the end of their journey, the friends excitedly declare that “he’s been” as they spot a table full of food and sit down to enjoy the Christmas meal with their family.
This offering is in stark contrast to the way so much food is marketed and packaged for Christmas; robbing it of its agricultural roots. Marks & Spencer turns this shopper right off with all its ‘not just any food’ branding.
Across the whole raft of supermarkets, money would be better spent paying the farmers a better price for basics such as milk, meat and vegetables, rather than on sprinkling fairy dust and fancy logos on everything.
We all know who puts the presents under the tree, but taking a moment to get us all thinking about who puts the Christmas food in the fridge is nothing short of genius. Giving festive food the wonder and mystery of presents is long overdue. There has become too much distance – both in terms of food miles and basic understanding – between field and fork.
There is a growing chasm between the upwardly-mobile frequenting farm shops and the general public. We had been buying meat from a stately home’s farm shop and never really looked properly at the receipt. But the Husband got his glasses on and realised the sausages – which weren’t as tasty as the ones from the supermarket – were working out at over £1 each and almost had a heart attack. Now we’re buying meat from a family butcher in town. The sort of place where the staff call you ‘love’ and always have time to find you a bone for the dog.
Too often food is made so special, niche and (my pet hate) ‘artisan’ that it almost feels like eating it requires some sort of club membership. Good food shouldn’t be the preserve of the well-off, or something only to be enjoyed at Christmas.
To get off the food hobby horse and, as an aside, our young nieces always end up with a book apiece at Christmas and this column gives the most marvellous opportunity to shine a light on a wonderful children’s story that’s been found for them this year. It’s called … that’s right, Farmer Christmas.
It’s beautifully illustrated and follows three children setting off on a festive countryside adventure with Farmer Christmas and his tractor and trailer full of presents.
The authors are two mothers with farming backgrounds who met at their local playgroup and published the book themselves.
The late Sir Ken Morrison would, there’s no doubt, be impressed with their enterprising spirit. Ask at your local bookshop or visit www.farmerchristmas.net
Sarah Todd is a former editor of Yorkshire Life magazine. She is a farmer’s daughter, mother and journalist specialising in country life.
Support The Yorkshire Post and become a subscriber today. Your subscription will help us to continue to bring quality news to the people of Yorkshire. In return, you’ll see fewer ads on site, get free access to our app, receive exclusive members-only offers and access to all premium content and columns. Click here to subscribe.