It showed the difficulties of making a living in farming. Clarkson took over the running of a farm he owned, but had previously had a tenant farmer running it before his retirement. He had owned the 1000 acres in Oxfordshire since 2008 but never had to farm them before. "How difficult could it be".
The filming coincided with lock down, so the show also featured the issues with that for farmers, and the challenge of setting up a new farm shop and dealing with legislation. The show was quite educational, pointing out the logistics and geography of how a field is ploughed so as to leave room for spraying once the crop starts growing...
As with Top Gear, a lot of it is apparently pre-scripted and there were set ups for comic effect - the huge Lamborghini tractor that he buys which doesn't work with other equipment as well as it should, and the local handyman who he can't understand because of his accent. There were the sheep he bought and tried to control with a drone that barked. His young farming assistant Kaleb is the straightman, along with his farm manager.
Howeve, even the National Farmers' Union were appreciative of it raising the profile of farming and the difficulty of making a profit for some against changing legislation, administration and financial support. They named him a Farming Champion in 2021.
They even won an award at the British Farming Awards.
NFU President Minette Batters said: “When it comes to recognising someone who has done their best to showcase British food and farming over the past 12 months, no-one has earned this award more than Jeremy Clarkson. 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.”
Acknowledging the extraordinarily tough time that farmers have been having recently, Minette went on, “It’s been such a challenging time for British farming over the past 12 months; as key workers our farmers have kept shelves stocked with British food and dealt with extreme weather events.
“Now, they are battling labour shortages, supply chain disruption and rising costs, which are causing severe problems for essential food producing businesses.
“Through all of this, Jeremy Clarkson has been a vocal champion for the British farming industry. His enthusiasm comes through in spades and his overwhelming and continued support for the NFU’s Back British Farming campaign makes him a very deserving winner of this prestigious award.”
And a book has now been published which is selling well.
Clarkson put in a planning application for an expansion of his existing farm shop at the end of last year. The plan was to open a restaurant. This was opened as part of the programme and led to predictable traffic chaos. There were also issues with some of the products for sale as the shop was only supposed to sell local products as a condition of its license. In January 2022 the application was turned down. This has been featured in a lot of newspapers and other media.
Some people were supportive, particularly other local farmers who pointed out the terrible toll of COVID on British farming, and the need to bring jobs into an area where there were fewer opportunities for employment to some degree.
The application can be seen on the West Oxon Council website at the time of writing (see link earlier in the post) and over the weekend, I have downloaded some key documents from bodies such as the Police and Highways Agency, and supportive and objecting comments from neighrbours and people in the local village.
I will do something with it once my current 'fixture congestion' dies down and share any resource that I create as a result - I think it would be quite a nice context for students to explore, and also tie in with local issues and decisions of this nature.
I've previously done this with plans for a cable car in Cheddar Gorge, and a Zip wire in the Lakes, neither of which have gone ahead yet, and both of which had some good responses from students - some in favour and some against...