Documentary shows how Greenmount College dug deep during the pandemic

COVID may have put normal life on hold for many, but for others the hard work went on.

One of those was Greenmount College, and a documentary series - which is airing on BBC1 on Monday evenings - shows how staff and students dug deep during the pandemic.

It charts the ups and downs of the 2019/20 academic year for a diverse group of students following them as they get their hands dirty, whether that’s in farming, food, flowers or foals.

During the series viewers get exclusive access to the three college campuses based at Greenmount, Enniskillen and Loughry to find out what it really takes for these students to become qualified ‘custodians of the countryside’.

Filmed from September 2019 to June 2020, each episode concentrates on the chronological seasonal unfolding of the college term and captures the huge impact of coronavirus mid-way through the academic year.

Over at the Dairy Centre, for example, amongst the 180 dairy cows, 34-year-old student Leanne Green uses her hairdressing skills to clip the cattle.

The cameras follow as Leanne and best friend Katie Acheson who met at Greenmount two years ago, head off on a shopping spree to the Autumn Stirling Bull Sales where Leanne was hoping to buy the Pedigree Shorthorn heifer of her dreams.

Meanwhile in Greenmount, 17-year-old Charlotte Houston from Ballyclare is in the first year of her Agriculture course.

She’s from a non-farming background and is getting to grips with farm machinery.

In contrast, 20-year-old Jack Nevin is already familiar with the tools of the trade having come from a long-established dairy farm. He’s in his final year studying Agriculture but his passion for fitness has him wondering what career he really wants.

While Jack is questioning whether or not to follow in the family tradition, 21-year-old Greenmount Horticulture student Niall Greene has firm hopes to one day take over his father’s nursery business.

Niall works for his father at weekends and studies the science of plants at Greenmount in Antrim during the week.

He had been looking forward to his summer work placement in a nursery in Bordeaux when suddenly everything is put on hold.

The series uniquely captures first-hand how college life takes a dramatic twist for the students when Covid-19 strikes midway during second term and for the first time since World War Two all campuses at CAFRE are closed.

The students are forced to say goodbye to their classmates and find themselves having to adjust to learning from home while taking on challenging new roles as essential workers.

As the country gradually eases out of lockdown the students reflect on their remarkable rollercoaster of a year at Countryside College.

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