Farmers Guardian is this week celebrating an astonishing 170 years in publishing since its initial birth in 1844.
Farmers Guardian began life as the Preston Guardian on February 10th, 1844. In its earlier decades the regional newspaper began continually increasing its agricultural content having made a firm commitment in the very first edition to ‘an earnest dedication to the prosperity of agriculture’ and the ‘perfect freedom of trade and industry’.
The success of the newspaper can be attested by a remark of Richard Cobden, described by Wikipedia as a British manufacturer, radical and liberal statesman, associated with the Anti-Corn Law League, who said: “I never remember a case of a local newspaper succeeding as this has done in so short a time and subject to the same competition.”
From then on it has been progress and expansion all the way reflecting an ever increasing circulation area and volume of agricultural news and data for an information-hungry rural community. Even in the very early days the reporting of market prices was, and remains, an important part of the content.
The first paper ran to 32 columns across just four pages and cost four and a half pence (just under 2p) and there was a Saturday morning ‘markets edition’ detailing prices from the area’s mainly retail markets. This gave farmers and growers a useful handle on the value of what they were producing.
By 1958 farming had assumed such an important part of the Preston Guardian the decision was made to evolve an all-farming edition – Farmers Guardian – which first came out on May 30. That ultimately signalled the end for the The Preston Guardian as a title – albeit not immediately in the minds of some readers who persisted for some time in referring to FG as the Preston Guardian.
An editorial at the time explained: “Throughout this century, the Preston Guardian has taken an ever-growing interest in agriculture…Farmers Guardian is therefore, a logical development aimed at providing an extended agricultural service over a wider field…We believe in farming…Our faith is in good farming and our aim is to record it.”
The launch of the all-farming FG was hailed by the then industry leaders. National Farmers Union president Sir James Turner (who was to become Lord Netherthorpe) said: “The birth of Farmers Guardian is a pioneering venture in provincial journalism and a gratifying acknowledgement of the increasing importance of the place occupied by the farming industry in the fabric of the nation…”
Staff reporters were appointed in the circulation area’s various regions of Cumbria, Cheshire and Yorkshire and further afield as the papers’ appeal grew.
And grow it did, claiming the title of the fastest growing paid-for farming newspaper in the UK.
Circulation, initially counted in hundreds, moved into the low thousands at the turn of the century and then made remarkable growth during the three decades following its re-launch as Farmers Guardian.
|1980||More than 32,000|
|1992||More than 51,000|
Readership growth has been despite an ever dwindling number of UK farmers as estates amalgamated holdings and many a family farm was broken into lots and sold – a process which of course continues today.
However, over almost a century and three quarters, it has recorded the dramatic developments in agriculture and the innovation which has revolutioned output. It also noted and reported the political appreciation of the industry during two world wars, but also, the indifference towards it in the intervening period.
Major highlights which have entailed detailed coverage and analysis include, to name a few, FG’s accession to the Common Market, the gradual loss of practically all the marketing boards, the impact of major disease outbreaks, an ever-burdensome raft of legislation and, importantly, the growth of the supermarkets and our increasing exposure to global market forces.
And that is not to mention the growing influence of ‘the green lobby’ – something which would have been unheard of during the vast part of history of FG when the whole population looked to farmers to produce our food.
In addition, it has fought tirelessly over the years on behalf of the industry, becoming known for its campaigning stance and winning numerous significant industry battles. And FG journalists, past and present, have been recognised for their high standards of journalism, with many collecting prestigious publishing awards.
Today, Farmers Guardian is a truly national newspaper, estimated to be read by about 93,000 people per week, and with an online following of up to 100,000.