The deep midwinter can be a gloomy time for farmers – out in foul weather, worrying what 2023 will bring in the way of subsidies, fat stock prices and harvests. But if you want to see a happy face out in the fields, look no further than 23-year-old William Young. His beaming optimism for the industry and his love for the animals in his care shines through in the many short videos he makes on the social media platform TikTok. They have turned Farmer Will (that’s the name of his account) into an international internet star. One, showing him rescuing a sheep from deep, thick mud in a pond, has had a staggering three million-plus views. That’s nearly as many as a Countryfile episode!

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Will, a sixth-generation farmer in the Vale of Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire, has worked full-time for four years with his father Andrew, tending around 4,000 sheep and lambs, after trying other jobs and deciding this was the life he really wanted.

His video ‘diversification’ started by accident when, one lambing time, he sent videos to friends who knew nothing about farming. “They loved them, so I posted them on TikTok and it all blew up from there,” says Will. “I do enjoy educating people about what happens on the farm on a day-to-day basis, like treating a poorly sheep or trimming its feet – things that are pretty amazing to someone who doesn’t know country life.”

Many farmers use social media, but it’s fair to say that TikTok isn’t renowned for its agricultural content; its contributors are more likely to be energetic young people miming to music. So, as well as filming himself at work on his phone, Farmer Will dances around the farm, sometimes in shorts and shirtless and often with lambs as his partners, to the delight of his nearly one million followers.

When he’s talking farming in his warm Buckinghamshire accent, Will doesn’t go in for technical language. “A lot of terms I could use wouldn’t be understood and the engagement would go,” he says. “That’s why my videos are all light-hearted and fun. How I act on and off camera is completely the same – I’m not playing to the camera. I don’t want people who watch to think: ‘Imagine being a farmer. It seems like a rubbish job’.

“I get a lot of messages from people who aren’t from farming backgrounds who want to know how they can get into it, which is really good. I give as much advice as I can in a non-professional way – I’m just a little farm boy from Buckinghamshire!”

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But he’s more than that. How many farm boys have a showbiz agent and recently featured in campaigns for a leading shampoo and a bank while still promoting a positive image of agriculture to a vast number of young people around the world? Now, he’s busy preparing his upbeat Christmas videos.

When I ask Will whether his future is in farming or the media, he says: “I’m just taking things as they come – social media is good to me but it could be over. I’m lucky I work for my Dad but if I wanted to be a farmer on my own, it would be super-hard getting on that ladder because of the price of land and the amount that is being taken away for development.”

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I see Farmer Will very much in the mould of Adam Henson – they open the farm gates and let us see what is happening. “The reason I’m a happy, positive person is that I’m always outside in the fresh air, loving animals,” says Will. “It’s a lovely life to live.”

Authors

John CravenJournalist and television presenter

With over five decades on our screens, John Craven is one of Britain's most memorable faces. John has always considered himself to be a country person at heart and after leaving Newsround in 1989 he joined the Countryfile team, making him the longest serving presenter on the show.

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