He’s become Britain’s most famous farmer – and it’s most unexpected – ever since his TV documentary Clarkson’s Farm became a smash hit.
Now petrolhead Jeremy Clarkson is figuring out what it really takes to make a living off the ground. And it’s far more difficult — and more frustrating — than belting in a nearly half-million-pound supercar on his other TV show, The Grand Tour.
Surrounded by his grazing cattle, Granthshala columnist Jeremy has red tape in his eyebrows tying his farm, didley squat, in bureaucratic knots.
Take the duck of his Shorthorn cows—which his newly-acquired 19-strong herd is producing in large quantities.
One government department, he says, encourages them to use it to fertilize the land, while another official body wants to ban them from doing so where it could pollute the water supply.
“So what do I do now?” Jeremy cries in desperation. “Put the cork in the cows a*ses?”
The “ridiculous level of the law” is one reason he is a vocal supporter of today’s Back British Farming Day.
Together with the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), Jeremy wants the government to commit the UK to at least 60 percent of the time it takes to be self-sufficient in food. It has slipped from about 80 percent in the 1980s.
Helping launch NFU’s new Food Report, Jeremy is also asking shoppers to buy British products, which he insists are of better quality and greener.
He explains: “When you pick up a little bit of meat in a supermarket and it has a little red tractor on it, it was made in Britain. Buy it because some poor sod in the Peak District is parenting in the cold at 3 a.m. “
Jeremy Online is supporting the NFU call for supermarkets to create a British Buy button so shoppers can easily pick up UK products.
He acknowledges that sometimes locally produced goods can be more expensive, but he says: “I urge any Granthshala reader who sees the difference between cost and value, ‘Okay, It’s 5p more to buy this meat with a red tractor on it but I’m getting better food and I’m helping British farming.”
He gives the example of American-grown tomatoes: “They’re incredibly large, the size of a grapefruit, and cost ten cents but you’re not buying anything, just displacing air. It has no nutritional value.” , is completely flavorless, so you can even spend 11 cents with vitamins in it.”
I met Jeremy on his 1,000-acre site in a beautiful corner of the Cotswolds. It made a whopping profit of just £144 last year, which is why he calls it Diddley Squat Farm.
Wearing torn jeans and a checkered shirt, weathering the weather and looking arable, he says: “I’m a trainee farmer. Even after two years in the business I realized that no one is really going to bat for the farmer. The government certainly is not.
“And you all have ever heard, ‘You are cruel to animals, you are poisoning the soil’. No, the farmers are really trying their best to feed the country and take care of the countryside.”
His actress girlfriend Lisa Hogan provides the glamor in his show, but Jeremy says he looks forward to more normal activities when the herd is artificially inseminated.
He adds: “Obviously, you have to put your hand under the cow, I’m not sure why, to fill its vagina with bull semen. Bull semen is extraordinarily expensive. So anyway, Lisa is keen to do that.” At the same time Lisa arrives, offering coffee and chocolate cake.
“Just explaining that you want to put your hand on the bottom of the cow,” says 61-year-old Jeremy happily.
Lisa seems less certain, adding to her soft Irish brogue: “I wouldn’t call it that but, yes, I think AI (artificial insemination) is fascinating.”
Jeremy worries that young farmers like his assistant Caleb Cooper are being evicted from the land because of the government’s neglect of the agriculture industry. He also likens it to “ethnic cleansing”.
He adds: “Caleb is fantastic, but I worry about how he’ll ever be able to afford his farm. He is now up against hedge fund managers who don’t necessarily want to cultivate it. “
Doncaster-born Jeremy is hardly the natural born son of Clay. His first job as a teenager was sewing Paddington Bears cuddly toys for the family business before training as a reporter at local newspapers.
Then in 1988 he became the world’s most famous petrolhead in front of Top Gear at the BBC before moving on to Amazon Prime’s motoring show The Grand Tour in 2015 with his co-stars Richard Hammond and James May.
The global success of Clarkson Farms, particularly in the US, has featured its farm shop on show, with shoppers and rubberneckers hoping to take a selfie with the man himself.
Traffic leading to the shop run by Lisa – through country lanes near Chadlington in Oxfordshire – has upset some locals.
Then when news leaked that Jeremy was planning a 60-seat cafe to sell his farm-raised beef in an old lamb shed, it caused an uproar.
Last week he called a meeting in the village hall with “good screw-top wine” and free cheese in hopes of declaring “peace in our times.”
He says that at times the meeting turned into “why is everything wrong with Britain and my fault”.
He adds: “The villagers gossip. I thought the best way to get everyone to guess what I’m doing is to just go down there. In the end, there were three very, very angry people in the room and 60 or 70 perfectly happy people.”
Dad-of-three Jeremy says he wants to serve his own steak to avoid a drop in farm subsidies and to deal with fears of a flood of cheap meat following the government’s signing of free trade deals with Australia and Canada. Huh.
“If Boris wants carbon neutrality by 2050, my cows run no more than five miles before they end up on the plate,” he says. “But I need a restaurant to do that.
“Eating meat, if it’s grass-fed British meat, it’s a very eco thing. My cows are roaming around eating pasture grass and living very happy lives. I know everyone wants to eat cheap Farmers can produce it if the government backs out and we don’t have to jump through so many hoops.
“They tell us we have to follow these strict rules, but Australian farmers don’t have to follow British rules. A pile of cards is against British farmers.”
As well as welcoming to the vague rules, Jeremy worries that the farm’s badger population could infect his prized Shorthorn with tuberculosis.
He brings up Geronimo Alpaca, whom activists try and fail to save from being put down for testing positive for TB. He quips: “If my cows get TB I’ll tell the government they identify as alpaca, then they’ll leave them alone.”
And what about the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill, which would establish in law the principle that animals have feelings? The proposed bill may provide protection to invertebrates like prawns and lobsters.
“The Shrimp Cocktail fills me with joy,” Jeremy says excitedly. “I went to a 60th birthday party on Saturday, and the starter was a shrimp cocktail with Mary Rose sauce.
“I never thought, ‘Poor shrimp.’
“But since the lobster’s brain is only about the size of a pinhead, chances are you’re going to miss it. The lobster, if it’s capable of rational thought — and it’s highly suspicious — will be thinking, ‘Me This knife has just been cut in half because it is a good way to die’.
Jeremy is convinced that he can even turn “vegetables” into his own grass-fed animals. He says: “One of the vegans on the production team, who is very vegetarian, said to me yesterday, ‘Is there a chance to take some of your eggs home?’ I’ll have him eat a really good steak by the end of the year.”
With that, he sets off to check out his trout pond – the petrolhead that has taught us to nurture our farmers.
- For more information on the NFU’s Back British Farming campaign, visit https://www.nfuonline.com/