In 1988 the BBC changed the name of its Sunday evening programme ‘Farming’ to ‘Countryfile’. In 1989 the name of the soap ‘Emmerdale Farm’ was changed to ‘Emmerdale’. Clearly TV producers had decided any mention of farming in the title of a programme was a complete turn off, literally. But now farming is back in focus on television. Adam Henson gave farming a say on Countryfile and we see more farmers on TV since the days of Ted Moult. Normally, they feature gritty northerners wading through snow drifts to rescue lost ewes but now a show set just a few miles away from the Wychwoods has appeared.
‘Clarkson’s Farm’ has been a hit on Amazon Prime. Much of its popularity is down to the celebrity himself but the countryside and the people and the job of farming are all part of its success.
I thought I would be watching this series on my own; an arrogant overgrown lad whose passion with fast cars was not of immediate appeal to my wife Anne. In the first programme, he won her round however, and we both enjoyed the series. He plays up to his image by buying an unnecessarily large tractor, a Lamborghini, and himself driving any bit of powerful machinery he can. However, he proves to be surprisingly humble as he gets to grips with being a hands-on farmer. He is happy to show all his beginner’s faults, whether tractor driving (no experienced farmer has ever knocked over a gatepost of course), or catching ewes for shearing (a very funny scene). He accepts his telling off by his 20 year old worker Caleb and listens to his land agent Charlie as he details where Jeremy’s plans are flawed. He also proves to be courteous in all his dealings with those he meets, even the detested men or women with clipboards. And, he turns out to be no Sir Alan Sugar, thank goodness, in his business dealings when I thought he gave Paul Matthews a very easy time negotiating the price of the milling wheat he had to sell. Good to see Matthews Mill given a mention though.
The programme highlights the problems every farmer faces, especially the weather in the autumn of 2019 and the following spring. Jeremy Clarkson has a particular dislike for all the bureaucracy and form filling required these days, as do we all, but loved the farming life and was keen to farm in a sustainable way encouraging wildlife and maintaining soil health, as do we all.
P.S. If you looked very carefully, you may have seen my green tractor in one programme!
February – March 2022