JEREMY Clarkson is seen by farmers as a hero for his work in highlighting the reality of farming to viewers of his Amazon Prime show Clarkson’s Farm, The Times has reported.
Speaking at last weekend’s The Times and Sunday Times Cheltenham Literary Festival, farmer and author James Rebanks said: “I can report back from the farming community that they all loved that programme.
“OK, he’s clowning around and a lot of farmers are lads who like machines and they would have watched Top Gear and all the rest of it. So there were silly bits. But in the farming community they are just delighted that somebody high profile would stick up for them and to have genuine empathy.
“He sends himself up and in a funny way makes the two working-class rural men the heroes of the programme and that goes down very well in the farming community.”
Last week The Grand Tour presenter was named Farming Champion of the Year at the 2021 National Farmers Union (NFU) awards.
Clarkson, who remains a Sunday Times Driving car reviewer, has become an advocate for many of the causes supported by the NFU including British food self-sufficiency and has also received praise from elsewhere within the farming community.
NFU president, Minette Batters, hailed Clarkson as a “vocal champion” for the farming community as it battled against supply chain disruptions, labour shortages and spiralling costs.
Clarkson’s Farm sees fish-out-of-water Clarkson attempting to run his thousand-acre Oxfordshire farm, which he named Diddly Squat, while struggling to fit into his new role and coming to terms with the day-to-day realities of the industry, including a mire of red tape and bureaucracy.
Clarkson runs the farm alongside his partner, Lisa Hogan, farm manager, Kaleb Cooper and land agent Charlie Ireland.
According to Batters: “His show has really resonated with the public, brought alive the ups and downs of our industry to a huge new audience, and transported British farming into the living rooms of families across the country.”
Rebanks said Clarkson has done more for farmers than long-running BBC TV show Countryfile has done in decades to highlight the reality of life on the land. Countryfile has often come in for criticism for being “anti-farming” and unsympathetic to the difficulties that farmers face.
“Frankly they [farmers] have been pissed off with Countryfile for 30 years,” Rebanks told the Cheltenham festival. “Because the whole logic of Countryfile is that they can’t make a mainstream programme about farming because farming is for a niche group of idiots.
“And what Clarkson has come along and done is say, ‘Actually no, everybody will watch a programme about farming, it just needs to be done in a certain way.’ And what they really liked is that he got people to spend 15 minutes or whatever of a programme thinking about how tough farming is.”
Rebanks, a Lake District farmer who is best-known for his 2015 book A Shepherd’s Life won the 2021 Wainwright Prize in the Nature Writing category for his latest book, English Pastoral.
Clarkson’s Farm hasn’t just been a hit for Amazon. The series has led to thousands flocking to Diddly Squat Farm — named due to the lack of income it supposedly generates — which has caused traffic jams and enormous crowds in the area around the farm, something that has angered locals.
At a recent tense town-hall meeting in Chadlington in Oxfordshire, Clarkson sought to assuage locals’ concerns about his plans to open a restaurant on his farm serving beef from his eco-friendly herd with one resident calling for him to close his farm shop until he has the infrastructure built to support the crowds, which Clarkson himself described as “a bloody nuisance”.
The farm shop sells produce including apple juice, honey and milk, much of which is made either locally or on the farm and unlike the farm, according to Clarkson, does make a healthy profit.
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