Clarkson’s Farm, a television programme in which celebrity Jeremy Clarkson turns his hand to farming for the first time, has been a surprise hit on Amazon Prime – but how has it been received by UK farmers and what impact has it had on the rural community?
The show has drawn huge audiences and rave reviews from viewers across the world, so much so that a second series has been commissioned which is now in filming and due to be aired in 2023.
Most people tune in just to see celebrity and journalist Jeremy Clarkson, who made his name presenting BBC’s Top Gear and ITV’s Who Wants To Be a Millionaire find out that farming was more difficult than he predicted.
But it has also been a surprise hit in rural communities, with farmers glued to a programme which covers so many of the complex issues they experience and wrestle with every day in their working lives.
There was an expectation amongst farmers that the series would be simply a stunt to provide a few extra laughs for Clarkson, who has become famous for his acerbic wit and boysy, sometimes close-to-the-line, humour.
But in fact, many have been surprised.
Some people have even claimed the show has changed public opinion about farming and provided a more realistic view of farming life than traditional shows such as BBC’s Countryfile.
Farmer and novelist James Rebanks, for instance, told the Mirror that 61-year-old Clarkson, is now a ‘champion of farming’.  Something you could hardly have predicted.
“I can report back from within the farming community: they all loved that programme. They loved it,” he said
“Ok, he’s clowning around, and he plays to that audience, and a lot of farmers are lads that like machines and they would have watched Top Gear and all the rest of it.”
What seems to make the show popular in farming circles is that it is a warts-and-all picture of farming life.
Viewers watch Clarkson make a complete hash of tasks on his 1,000-acre farm, which is based between Chipping Norton and Chadlington in the Cotswolds – and find out how complicated and challenging farming really is.
Clarkson himself admitted at the end of the eight-episode first series that he invested in: “many new and exciting money-spinning projects, and then watched in horror as almost all of them ended in expensive failure.”
He names a doomed attempt to grow wasabi peas as one of the biggest disasters.
The fact that his farm, despite all the hard work, made a measly profit of £144 in his first year rather underlines the fact that it hasn’t been a walk in the park.
And considering Clarkson named his business ‘Diddly Squat Farm’ maybe we shouldn’t be too surprised!
But Clarkson’s growing enthusiasm for the task, and his on-screen relationships with other workers on the farm make it cult viewing.
Side-kick Kaleb Cooper, a 21-year-old who was born and bred in Chipping Norton, is the real star and is described as a ‘god send’ by Clarkson after joining the team and effectively taking control.
But land agent Cheerful Charlie and dry-stone-wall specialist Gerald Copper have also made a name for themselves across the series. Not to mention Clarkson’s girlfriend Lisa Hogan and shepherdess Ellen Helliwell.
The human element is what makes that show work, and famers recognise the humour from their own lives.
What do farmers think of it?
The response from farmers across the board has been largely positive.
There will always be those who think the show is unrealistic and those who are not fans of Clarkson. He’s a man who has upset and alienated plenty of people during his career with his forthright views – although you suspect he doesn’t give a hoot!
But looking at message boards and social media in farming circles provides a picture of a farming audience that enjoys the show and regularly tunes in.
Rob Rose of Rosewood Farm, for instance, told the website liveFrankly: “I thought it was rather true to life. What makes it so relatable to farmers is that the ‘star’ doesn’t overshadow his supporting team. Clarkson doesn’t try to pretend that he’s in any way doing it by himself. The characters are all very entertaining. While we’re certainly not all like that in farming, we do all know people exactly like Gerald, Charlie, Ellen, and Kaleb.”
Simon Price, Pig Farmer at field&flower added on the same site: “I’m hoping the next series of Clarkson’s Farm is going to show that sustainable farming on a commercial scale is entirely plausible. And by this, I mean a farming system that feeds a significant number of people, supports biodiversity. And produces a profit for poor ol’ Jeremy!
“I’m a pig farmer, and while Clarkson’s Farm is yet to expand into pigs, seeing Clarkson’s sheep jumping around showed viewers how farm life can be for animals in a free-range system. Importantly, it also showed that rearing animals free-range doesn’t come cheap.”
Where did the idea for the show come from?
Clarkson famously told Farmers Weekly: “I bought the farm in 2008 and it was contract farmed by a chap in the village.
“When he said he was retiring, I thought, ‘Farming can’t be that difficult – humans have been doing it for 12,000 years. It’s seeds in the ground, weather happens, food grows, and I go skiing. Fantastic. I will do it myself’.”
The reality has been very different but although Clarkson has struggled to make an annual profit on what he grows, the farm itself has grown in value – so he’s not exactly out of pocket. Estimates suggest he spent £6m buying it and the current value is over £12m.
He also has a personal fortune made during his television career to fall back on, and is clearly being paid by Amazon, too. So, you can hardly say he is a regular farmer.
On the other hand, what farm doesn’t diversify in some way these days? Bringing in a film crew is not unheard of on farms and farmers have never been shy of finding weird and wonderful ways to make an extra buck. Perhaps that’s why they appreciate Clarkson’s constant attempts to do the same, even when they don’t work out.
The Diddly Squat Farm Shop
One of the stars of the show, and the most talked about aspects, has been the Diddly Squat Farm Shop – another diversification tactic which most farmers will be familiar with.
It was first opened in 2020 when Clarkson found he had ‘accidentally’ produced 40 tonnes of potatoes and needed to sell them. From there his partner Lisa bought hives and began to produce and sell bee juice.
These days, thanks to the success of the show, the shop is hugely popular with big queues outside the door on most days, and the shop also sells produce made by local residents and nearby farms.
The store hasn’t been without controversy, however. Locals grew frustrated by its popularity in the early days when the number of visitors to their village grew day by day. With tourist cars often blocking roads and making access to farms more complicated, the knock-on effects were uncomfortable.
A request to open a restaurant on site was rebuffed as a result – amid fears of attracting even more tourists. And the local council closed the shop down at one stage because of a planning dispute over the style of roof fitted.
Now, however, after a quick refurb, Diddly Squat Farm Shop is open once more, to the relief of fans and Clarkson alike.
In fact, when you consider it also brings potential new customers to other businesses in Chadlington and Chipping Norton, you might say it’s been good for everyone in the region.
The Lamborghini Tractor
Clarkson’s giant tractor – a R8 270 DCR which he once joked had 44 gears and 188 buttons – is the cause of constant comedy and cause of a lot of attention in farming circles.
Many farmers admit to being petrol heads, taking great joy in buying new farming equipment, with tractors top of the list. So, there are plenty of them eyeing up Jeremy’s Lamborghini.
It was bought in 2020 and was so big that Clarkson famously had to build a new barn to house it.
Since then, he has crashed it twice and viewers have seen all manner of things go wrong. But it has still endeared him to farmers who dream of owning it!
What’s the impact of Clarkson’s Farm on farming in the UK?
The show has certainly brought a new focus to UK farming and helped members of the public understand some of the challenges it faces.
Publicity for the show has been intensified by Clarkson’s regular column in the Times and by his social media platforms, garnering a huge rural fan base.
George Beach, director of Redditch-based family business Mudwalls Farm told the Birmingham Mail: “Given all the gimmicks that Clarkson has done, me and a lot of farmers were sceptical, but he has shown the honest truth about how tough farming is to other audiences.
“There’s the hard work, the getting up very early, high cost of equipment and issues with supermarkets over price.
“I think the show is absolutely brilliant. Clarkson isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but everyone seems to agree about what he’s done.
“He manages to make me laugh while I watch him going through my own troubles. I applaud him.”
It seems that farmers, as well as regular television viewers, can’t wait for the next series to begin.
All your questions about Clarkson’s Farm Answered
What television channel is Clarkson’s Farm on?
When did Clarkson’s Farm start?
The first series launched in June 2021
How many episodes did the first series have?
Is there a Clarkson’s Farm Season 2?
Yes, a second series of Clarkson’s Farm has been commissioned – and filming is due to finish by August. Expect to see it on screen in 2023
Where is Clarkson’s farm?
Clarkson’s Farm is situated between Chipping Norton and Chadlington, in the Cotswolds, in the English county of Oxfordshire
What is Clarkson’s farm called?
The real name of Clarkson’s Farm is Diddly Squat Farm – reflecting its owner’s amateur status as a farmer!
What’s Jeremy Clarkson’s sidekick called in the series?
Twenty-one-year-old Kaleb Cooper, who was born and bred in Chipping Norton is the surprise star of the show who helps Jeremy run the farm.
When did Clarkson buy the farm?
Clarkson bought the farm way back in 2008 – but he only started working on it in 2021 when the farmer who ran it on his behalf retired.
How big is the farm?
Clarkson’s Farm covers an area of 1,000 acres
What’s Clarkson’s Farm worth?
Nobody knows for certain what Clarkson’s Farm is worth, but estimates are around the £12m mark
Is the farm organic?
No, but Jeremy says he’s striking a balance between sustainable farm and affordable produce
What’s the Clarkson’s Farm shop called?
Diddly Squat Farm Shop
When did Clarkson’s Diddly Squat Farm shop open?
What does the Clarkson’s Farm shop sell?
Produce from the farm and as well as from other local growers. There are also other accessories and even clothes on sale
Can you visit the Clarkson’s Farm shop?
Yes, the shop is located on the farm and is open to visitors. It was closed for repairs early in 2022 but is now open again. Visitors do not have access to other parts of the farm, however.
When is the Clarkson’s Farm shop open?
Opening hours are currently Thursday to Sunday, 9.30am to 4.30pm
How highly is the Clarkson’s Farm show rated by viewers?
It has five stars on Amazon and a 9.0 rating out of 10 on IMDB
How many people watch Clarkson’s Farm?
Amazon never reveals viewing figures, so we’re all guessing
Does Clarkson’s Farm make a profit?
Not much if the shows are to be believed. Kaleb Cooper famously told Clarkson at the end of the first series that the farm had made a profit of just £144
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