This film is held by the BFI (ID: 453780).


The care and management of dairy herds in Jamaica in order to maximise milk yields.

Over agricultural shots, a Jamaican voiceover explains that 'dairying in Jamaica is developing rapidly into a flourishing industry'. The commentator states that 'the marketing situation is encouraging' as the distribution of milk - marked 'Nestle's milk' on the boxes - is shown. There is a large sign for 'Dairy Products Ltd' and then a woman brings out milk to a group of Europeans sitting in a car. A black milkman, on a horse-drawn cart with 'United Dairy Farmers Ltd - phone 3921' along the side, delivers milk to householders, as the voiceover talks of the 'good habit' of drinking milk daily. The voiceover outlines the growing demand for milk, while schoolchildren sit outside drinking. The film then considers the government's efforts to improve the herd and milk yield, as a large sign introduces the 'Department of Agriculture Livestock Improvement'. The film indicates the many 'wrong practices' employed by farmers - 'sanitary conditions make milk a dangerous enemy instead of a friend' - and constantly reiterates that these practices lead to a 'smaller yield'. The film introduces a farmer who cannot understand why his well-bred cow gives so little milk. He meets a group of five other farmers with a similar problem and their leader, Farmer Charles Brown, decides that 'an answer must be found'. A white agricultural officer then pays them a visit and invites Farmer Brown to visit Farmer Johnson, a prosperous dairy farmer. Farmer Johnson shows Farmer Brown around his farm, illustrating all of the approved practices. After Johnson milks one of his cows, he measures the milk taken and Brown is amazed at the high yield. The film concludes with Farmer Brown leaving the farm. The voiceover states that 'with the knowledge he [Farmer Brown] has gained from this visit, he has found the answers to the problems of his own fellow farmers. Their old methods are to blame. The only way to a higher and constantly good milk yield lies in the proper care and the proper management of the dairy cow'.



In February 1952, The Daily Gleaner announced that ‘a film which has made a bit of history in Jamaica, will be shown in the lecture Hall of the institute of Jamaica tomorrow morning. “Farmer Brown Learns Good Dairying” – a documentary made in Jamaica by Jamaicans’ (Daily Gleaner, 15 February 1952, 5).

Farmer Brown Learns Good Dairying was the first film produced by the Jamaica Film Unit. Production on the film began in 1950 as part of the work of the Colonial Film Unit Training School in the West Indies. R.W. Harris and G. Evans – two members of the Colonial Film Unit – had arrived in Jamaica in February 1950 to set up and run the film school at the University College in Jamaica. Three of the six trainees were from Jamaica (Weller, Welsh and Rennalls) although it is probable that the other members of the training programme contributed to the film. A photo within an article by the Colonial Film Unit depicts ‘students at work on a production’. The photo shows a farmer milking a cow, while the board – dated 27 July 1950 – reveals that the film is directed by Rennalls, with Wilfred Lee, later to head the Trinidad Unit, working as cameraman. The article mentions that Rennalls, Welsh and Weller ‘have one more shot to take to complete a film on improved livestock methods’ (Colonial Cinema, June 1951, 42-43).

However, the production was still not completed by September 1951, when William Sellers, the head of the Colonial Film Unit, visited Jamaica. He stated that Farmer Brown Learns Good Dairying was still ‘awaiting the recording of the soundtrack’ (Colonial Cinema, December 1951, 91). The commentary was in all probability recorded by one of the three filmmakers. A report on the training course explained that ‘voice tests were made among the students, and to the student with the voice that was considered best suited for reproduction was delegated the task of speaking the commentary’ (Colonial Cinema, June 1951, 41).

Martin Rennalls wrote of the development of the Jamaica Film Unit in Colonial Cinema in March 1953. ‘The Unit has had one film released to the public up to date’ he wrote, ‘Farmer Brown Learns Good Dairying – a film made specially for adult audiences to help solve the problem of effecting better care and management of the dairy cow so as to improve the milk-production in Jamaica’ (Colonial Cinema, March 1953, 18). Newspaper reports indicated that a film on ‘dairy farming’ played to a local branch of the Jamaica Agricultural Society at Clonmel School in May 1952 (Daily Gleaner, 19 May 1952, 9) and Rennalls commented that Farmer Brown Learns Good Dairying ‘has been having a very successful showing throughout Jamaica and other British West Indian islands and its acceptance as a local production has been extremely important’.

The film was presented as a part of a broader campaign. The Department of Agriculture’s Annual Report for 1952 mentioned screenings of the film ‘from time to time’ as part of the Livestock Division’s ‘advisory work on all aspects of animal husbandry, feeding and management’. The report also referred to exhibits at the Frome Show and a colour documentary film produced by Dr G. Bras of the University about the ‘Jamaica-Hope’ breed (Annual Report of the Department of Agriculture, 1952). Furthermore, Rennalls explained that ‘in conjunction’ with the release of Farmer Brown Learns Good Dairying were ‘a filmstrip and brochure on the same subject forming a sort of Visual Unit’. He added that ‘to help meet the demand in bookings for this film four extra copies are to be purchased’ (Colonial Cinema, March 1953, 18).

Films about the dairy industry had been shown in Jamaica before – for example at the Annual General Meeting of the Jamaica Livestock Association in 1949 – and Colonial Cinema suggested in 1950 that Jamaica was well-equipped for their exhibition with four cinema vans and 12 sound projectors. Yet, the magazine recognised a need for local productions ‘which must be far more interesting and useful to audiences’, and the Jamaica Film Unit would produce a series of local instructional films, many of which addressed agricultural problems (Colonial Cinema, March 1950, 19). For example, One Way Out was designed to get farmers to ‘spray their bananas thoroughly and regularly’ and according to Rennalls ‘is expected to be received with even a greater reception than Farmer Brown’ (Colonial Cinema, March 1953, 18). In January 1953, Rennalls presented Let’s Stop Them, a film about ‘praedial larceny’ [the theft of livestock] to the Jamaican Agricultural Society. Sir Hugh Foot, the governor, attended the screening and argued that the film marked ‘the beginning of a big development in the technique of presentation… in phases of agriculture where there is still the need to get across ideas to the farmer’ (Daily Gleaner, 16 January 1953, 11).

The government agricultural reports suggested that by 1953, dairy farming was on the decline. A report stated that ‘the movement out of dairying apparently gained impetus during the year. Supplies of milk to the condensery for the first time since its opening, did not surpass those of the previous year’. Bigger farmers tended to ‘abandon milk production for such crops as rice and bananas and cattle raising’. The report concluded that as the consumption of condensed milk continued to rise, ‘it appeared likely that importation would be necessary during 1954’ (Annual Report of the Department of Agriculture, 1953, 11). 



Father Brown Learns Good Dairying represents a move towards local production within Jamaica, employing a West Indian crew and adopting a local voiceover, and is of historical significance both as the first production by the Jamaica Film Unit, and as a product of the Colonial Film Unit’s training school. Indicative of Jamaica’s own moves towards independence, the film’s production illustrates the increasing responsibility transferred to indigenous West Indians, yet this is still a gradual shift, with the film overseen and edited by the Colonial Film Unit.

Indeed in its message, the film adopts a largely traditional, established colonial rhetoric. In particular, the film promotes the need for continued European assistance as the white instructor – who ‘knew very well… they have never followed his advice’ – demonstrates the modern farming methods to Farmer Brown. The film establishes a clear contrast between the traditional methods adopted by the black farmers, and the modern methods proposed by the white ‘instructor’. This contrast between the old and new is represented in the film’s narrative with the move from the modern urban environment in which a group of young Europeans enjoy a drink in their car, to the old country district, represented by locals transporting goods on their heads and by horse and cart. While the film depicts the black workers preparing and delivering the milk, the white Europeans are seen in two roles – as government officials modernising the industry and as consumers.

As a film produced in collaboration with the government, Farmer Brown Learn Good Dairying reinforces government initiatives – for example, the voiceover explains that Farmer Johnson’s shed was built ‘quite cheaply with the aid of a grant from the Farm Improvement Scheme’ – and ultimately promotes an ideology, and adopts a narrative structure, consistent with many other colonial productions from other countries. For example, the film’s narrative structure – detailing the incorrect methods of farming, before presenting the correct model – is similar to the ‘Mr Wise and Mr Foolish’ format regularly adopted in films from the Colonial Film Unit or Central African Film Unit, such as 1948’s Two Farmers (a similar structure can, of course, also be found in instructional films made for domestic British audiences).   

At the outset, the commentator states that ‘dairying is developing rapidly into a flourishing industry’ in Jamaica. Yet, government reports indicated that milk production was decreasing by 1953 and there is little to suggest that the film had any major impact upon agricultural society. The film is thus primarily significant in terms of Jamaican and colonial film history. As a product of both the Colonial Film Unit and the government, the film may appear to largely follow existing film practices – in both style and message – but it does indicate a growing demand for locally produced material and a first move towards a more ‘authentic’ Jamaican voice on film. Furthermore, it illustrates a desire on the part of the government to produce instructional films for local audiences and to use these as part of the machinery of government.

Tom Rice (August 2008)


Works Cited

‘West Indies’, Colonial Cinema, March 1950, 19-21.

‘The West Indies Film Training School’, Colonial Cinema, September 1950, 66-69.

‘Colonial Film Unit Training School in the West Indies’, Colonial Cinema, June 1951, 40-44.

Daily Gleaner, 30 July 1949, 16.

‘Colonial Film Unit Arrives’, Daily Gleaner, 14 February 1950, 4.

‘Farm Film Shown’, Daily Gleaner, 19 May 1952, 9.

‘Home-made Documentary for the Screen’, Daily Gleaner, 15 February 1952, 5.

‘Governor sees “Big Development” in Farming Publicity’, Daily Gleaner, 16 January 1953, 11.

Government of Jamaica, Annual Report of the Department of Agriculture (1952).

Government of Jamaica, Annual Report of the Department of Agriculture (1953).

Rennalls, M.A., ‘Visual Education in Jamaica’, Colonial Cinema, March 1953, 15-19.

Sellers, W., ‘Film Production in the West Indies’, Colonial Cinema, December 1951, 91-93.




Technical Data

Film Gauge (Format):
16mm Film

Production Credits

Production Countries:
Production Company
Jamaica Film Unit
Written by
Written by
Written by







Production Organisations