Did anyone have Jeremy Clarkson becoming an evangalist on behalf of farming on their 2021 bingo card?
I have to admit, I never saw this one in my crystal ball, but social media and Zoom meeting water coolers are obsessing over his new programme “Clarkson’s Farm”.
He even featured as the cover star of last week’s Irish Country Living. It’s a phenomenon.
Clarkson is box-office. His persona of a middle-class, middle-England person railing against political correctness has made him rich.
So rich that in 2008 he bought a 1,000 acre farm practically on a whim.
When his farm manager retired in 2019, he decided to become the hands-on manager.
The programme follows this complete newcomer, armed with cash, enough self-confidence to raise the Titanic, and a well-versed love of noisy fast machines, in his first year.
It only takes a couple of weeks for Clarkson to face one of the ultimate truths of farming – you will be punished for every mistake.
He puts seed and fertiliser into a shed with a floor that is clearly damp, and seed starts sprouting in the bag.
He decides turning on headlands while drilling corn is for wimps, and sows in shots instead. That results in tramlines, set for every eighth run, appearing randomly across the crop. His drone sheepdog idea works perfectly – the first time. The sheep ignore it and jump walls when he tries it again.
His giant Lamborghini tractor (presumably bought because Jaguar don’t make tractors) gets stuck in gates and shed roofs.
The second truth of farming is also well portrayed. Things happen that are outside your control but can really hurt you.
The awful weather of autumn 2019 stops his grain planting. His sheep get lame. He sits in his office late at night and surveys his ruined plans, helpless.
Every farmer knows that sinking feeling. It is true that Clarkson will never know the gut-wrenching loss of control when bills are piling up but no money is coming in. Every farmer I know has faced months when they have had no idea how to pay the loan, or the school or college fees or the electricity bill. And yet the pain he feels when it all goes wrong is genuine and palpable. The programme conveys much of the reality of being a farmer, albeit with a safety net.
It also shows the sheer joy of being out in the fields on a bright morning.
And at a time when there is so much negativity about farming, particularly animal farming, we should all be thankful to Jeremy Clarkson for that.